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GBHRIGHT DEPOSED 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 



SKETCHES 



BY 
JULIA M. ALEXANDER 



THE OBSERVER PRINTING HOUSE, INC. 

CHARLOTTE, N. C. 

1916 



•; 



IP 



COPYRIGHT 

1916 

By JULIA M. ALEXANDER 



iC 



JAN 30 1917 



'CI.A455372 



TO MOTHERS 

OF 

EVERY TIME AND NATION 

WHO HAVE TRAINED THEIR SONS 

TO SERVE WELL, 

GOD, AND THEIR COUNTRY 
THIS BOOK IS REVERENTLY INSCRIBED 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 
I 

Mary Ball Washington, Mother of George 

Washington II 

II 
Margaret Cox Ruskin, Mother of John 

Ruskin 37 

III 
Margaret Aitken Carlyle, Mother of 

Thomas Carlyle : 6j 

IV 
Susanna Annesley Wesley, Mother of John 

and Charles Wesley 131 

V 
Monica, Mother of Saint Augustine 147 

VI 
Glimpses of the Mothers of Many Great 

Men 165 



I 



FOREWORD 

N THE Capitoline Museum, at Rome, there may be seen 
the fragment of a statue, of which only the base 
remains, and thereon the inscription, 

"CORNELIA, 
MOTHER OF THE GRACCHI." 

In the dim but glorious past of Rome, this memorial of 
stone was reared by an admiring people to the memory of 
a Roman mother in whom were combined the noble virtues 
and lofty traits of character which, in that age, best repre- 
sented the ideal of heroic motherhood. 

This is, however, but a single instance, where, to the 
worth of motherhood, has been paid such signal honor. 
History has accorded the mother scant recognition; her 
biography has seldom been written; and the annals of 
time record scarce more than a passing word to bear testi- 
mony to that potent influence which, more than all else, 
has shaped the destinies of the world's distinguished men. 

But the highest and most lasting tribute to motherhood 
is not to be found in memorials of stone and brass — rather 
let it be sought in the lives of sons and daughters whose 
true greatness and nobility of character is attributable to 
that maternal influence which guided their infant steps 
through the impressionable period of life, and prepared 
them to meet with wisdom and with confidence the stern 
duties of maturer years. 



io MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Whether or not it be true that the gifts and character- 
istics of a mother are most often inherited by her son, 
while those of the father most frequently descend to the 
daughter, it is, nevertheless, an established fact that behind 
the life of many a great man — and the secret of his notable 
career — has been the influence of a great mother, which 
has molded his character and stimulated him to high 
endeavor. 

Difficult has been the task to find material for the making 
of a book which records the lives of even a few of these 
noble women. It is in the biography of the son, or in his 
autobiographical writings, one may sometimes find the 
incomplete story of her life ; and therefore, it is ofttimes 
necessary to recount much concerning the family of which 
she was the center, and of the son through whose fame 
she lives. 

Men are to be counted great, not alone by heritage of 
rank or wealth, but when by innate worth and merit they 
have risen to conspicuous places in the world's category 
of immortals. In this volume, the mothers who are 
accounted great are but types of women in every age, who, 
in the lives of their sons, have unconsciously built the 
foundation for that which is best and noblest in the life 
of the nation. 

Their influence is not to be estimated, but, like the ever- 
widening stream, is far-reaching, sweeping onward into 
the currents of Time. 



MARY BALL WASHINGTON 

MOTHER OF 

GEORGE WASHINGTON 

MARY BALL WASHINGTON, mother 
of Gen. George Washington, was of 
English ancestry, the direct line of 
the Ball family (which may be traced back 
to 1480) showing her to be seventh in descent from 
"William Ball, Lord of the Manor of Barkham, 
Com. Berks, died in the year, 1480." Barkham, 
known in olden times as "Boercham," is noted as 
the place at which William the Conqueror first 
came to a halt on his march from the bloody field 
of Hastings; and it is said that it was here he 
"stayed his ruthless hand." 

The Ball family belonged to the landed gentry 
of England — to that great middle class which, 
although not endowed with vast material riches, 
has proven to be possessed in a large measure of 
wealth of intellect; for from the landed, untitled 
gentry has sprung England's great host of scholars, 
poets, and philosophers. 



12 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

William Ball was the first of his family to emi- 
grate to America, and in the year 1650 settled in 
Lancaster County, Virginia. At the time when he, 
in company with other cavaliers, left England, the 
royal house had been overthrown, and many of its 
adherents met with severe persecution, which 
forced them to seek the peace and freedom of 
colonial life. 

As to public services rendered by the Ball 
family, no record has been given, but it boasted a 
coat-of-arms showing a shield upon which is a 
"lion rampant — the most honorable emblem of 
heraldry; and the lion's paws bear aloft a ball!" 
The motto of the family, "Coelum tueri," comes 
from Ovid — "He gave to man a noble countenance, 
and commanded him to gaze upon the heavens, 
and to carry his looks upward to the stars." 
Bishop Meade says of the Ball coat-of-arms: 
"There is much that is bold about it; as a lion 
rampant with a globe in his paw, with helmet, 
shield, and visor, and other things betokening 
strength and courage — but none of these suit my 
work. There is, however, one thing that does. 
On a scroll are these words, 'Coelum tueri !' May 
it be a memento to all his posterity to look upward 
and seek the things which are above." 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 13 

Before the time that the Ball family had 
emigrated to America, an Englishman by the name 
of John Washington had settled in Westmoreland, 
Virginia, and had risen to great influence, holding 
various responsible positions in the county. It was 
a descendant of this house — Augustine Wash- 
ington — who, in the year 1730, became the husband 
of Mary Ball. 

Of Mary Ball's childhood little is known. Many 
traditions relating to her girlhood are based on 
letters found by a Union soldier, but which 
undoubtedly refer to some other young woman 
having the same name. Her mother's death occur- 
ring when Mary Ball was only thirteen years of 
age, she went to make her home with her sister 
Elizabeth (the wife of Samuel Bonum), the only 
other surviving member of the immediate family. 
Of her personal appearance and attractiveness, 
Washington Irving writes that she was "a beauty 
and a belle. " His authority, however, was George 
Washington Parke Custis, the only person of her 
acquaintance who has left a written description of 
Mary Ball; and he knew her only when she had 
reached middle life. 

That she was typically English in appearance is 
to be granted; also, that she was "finely formed, 
her features pleasing, yet strongly marked." 



i 4 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Her young womanhood was similar to that of 
any other Virginia maiden of her social position, 
during that period, in that she received a good edu- 
cation, and was also taught dancing, horsemanship, 
and kindred accomplishments, to fit her for the 
round of social pleasures which constituted the gay 
life of Westmoreland and the neighboring sec- 
tions of country. 

In the year 1730, at the age of twenty-two — 
considered in that day by no means an early age 
for marriage — she became the second wife of 
Augustine Washington. Her new home was a 
roomy, old-fashioned house on the banks of the 
Potomac; the plantation, known as "Wakefield," 
comprising a thousand acres of fine farming land, 
well wooded and well watered. 

The bride has been described* as ' 'covertly 
exploring her new home, and scanning the foot- 
prints of her predecessor ; keeping her own counsel, 
but instructing herself as to what manner of woman 
had first enthroned herself in the bosom of her 
lord. It appears she was arrested in this voyage 
of discovery by a small but rare treasure of books. 
Standing before the diamond-paned secretary, she 
examined one volume after another. Finally, turn- 



* "The Mother of Washington, and Her Times," by Mrs. Roger 
A. Pryor. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 15 

ing over the leaves of one, she read, 'On Self- 
Denial/ 'On Ye Vanity and Vexation which 
Ariseth from Worldly Hope and Expectation.' 
These seemed to be words of wisdom by which one 
might be guided. The title page announced 'Sir 
Matthew Hale's Contemplations'; the flyleaf 
revealed the name of the owner, 'Jane Washington.' 
Finding the inkhorn, she wrote firmly beneath, 'And 
Mary Washington' — probably the first time she 
had written the new name. 

"We all know the rest: how this book of Eng- 
land's learned Judge never left her side; how she 
read it to her stepsons and her own sons, how it 
was reverenced by George Washington, how it is 
treasured today at our National mecca — Mount 
Vernon." 

At the Wakefield home was born, on February 
22, 1732, a son, whom Mrs. Washington named for 
her valued friend, George Eskridge. 

It was not long after this that the old house was 
destroyed by fire; the young wife, while diligently 
engaged in burning leaves and debris in her garden, 
found that the flames were beyond her control, and 
it was not long until the family mansion was in 
ashes. Her husband was away from home at the 
time, but through the exertions of Mrs. Washing- 
ton and her servants, some pieces of furniture and 



16 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

a few treasured possessions were carried to a place 
of safety, the beloved "Sir Matthew Hale" being 
among the treasures rescued. 

The family "dined that day in the kitchen, in 
apparent content," and the burning of the home 
was not permitted to disturb in great measure the 
well-ordered routine of plantation life. 

After the loss of the Wakefield house, the Wash- 
ington moved to "Pine Grove," a farm on the 
banks of the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericks- 
burg. Here, in 1743, Augustine Washington died, 
leaving seven children — two by his first wife, and 
five by the second — to the care and guardianship 
of his young widow. 

George, the eldest of the five children of 
Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, was at this 
time only ten years of age; his brothers and sisters 
were Elizabeth, Samuel, John, and Augustine; 
Mildred, another child of this union, having died 
in infancy. 

The words of Goethe — "She is a most excellent 
woman, who, when the husband dies, becomes a 
father to the children" — are most applicable to Mrs. 
Washington. At the age of thirty-five, she was left 
alone with all the responsibilities of rearing a family, 
and administering upon a large estate; and in each 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 17 

capacity she proved herself most worthy and 
capable of the trust. 

Mr. Custis, who in childhood was often a visitor 
at the Washington homes, writes as follows: 

"Bred in those domestic and independent habits 
which graced the Virginia matrons in the old days 
of Virginia, this lady, by the death of her husband, 
became involved in the cares of a young family at 
a period when those cares seem more especially to 
claim the aid and control of the stronger sex. It 
was left for this eminent woman, by a method the 
most rare, by an education and discipline the most 
peculiar and imposing, to form in the youth-time 
of her son those great and essential qualities which 
gave luster to the glories of his after-life. If the 
school savored the more of the Spartan than the 
Persian character, it was a fitter school to form a 
hero, destined to be the ornament of the age in 
which he flourished, and a standard of excellence 
for ages yet to come. 

"The home of Mrs. Washington, of which she 
was always mistress, was a pattern of order. There 
the levity and indulgence common to youth were 
tempered by a deference and well-regulated 
restraint, which, while it neither suppressed nor 
condemned rational enjoyment used in the spring- 
time of life, prescribed those enjoyments within 



18 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

the bounds of moderation and propriety. Thus the 
chief was taught the duty of obedience, which pre- 
pared him to command. His mother held in reserve 
an authority which never departed from her, even 
when her son had become the most illustrious of 
men. It seemed to say, 'I am your mother, the 
being who gave you life, the guide who directed 
your steps when they needed a guardian: my 
maternal affection drew forth your love; my 
authority constrained your spirit; whatever may 
be your success or your renown, next to your God, 
your reverence is due to me.' 

"Nor did the chief dissent from the truths; but 
to the last moments of his venerable parent, yielded 
to her will the most dutiful and implicit obedience, 
and felt for her person and character the highest 
respect, and the most enthusiastic attachment. 

"Such were the domestic influences under which 
the mind of Washington was formed, and that he 
not only profited by, but fully appreciated, their 
excellence and the character of his mother, his 
behavior toward her at all times testified." 

Mrs. Washington rose fully equal to the condi- 
tion of affairs which confronted her. Strong self- 
reliance, combined with unusual executive ability, 
aided her in the performance of the multitudinous 
duties which thronged her footsteps. The planta- 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 19 

tion was to be superintended, her children edu- 
cated, and various matters pertaining to the house- 
hold given personal attention. 

In the home circle, Mrs. Washington's rule was 
none the less than that of a queen over her little 
kingdom. From her children she exacted strictest 
obedience, and received their deepest reverence and 
love ; her friends were many, and were given warm 
welcome beneath the hospitable roof; her servants 
were loyal and devoted, and received in return 
kindly consideration and watchful care. From the 
windows of her home might be obtained a view of 
Fredericksburg, and of the wharf where ships from 
England came to unload their wares, receiving in 
exchange great cargoes of tobacco, which was fast 
becoming a popular luxury in the old world. That 
Mrs. Washington did not engage in bartering with 
the English traders is evident from a letter written 
to her brother Joseph in England, excusing herself 
for not sending letters, with the following explana- 
tion: "As I don't ship tobacco, the Captains never 
call on me, soe that I never know when tha come 
and when tha goe." Says Mr. Custis : "Her great 
industry, with the well regulated economy of all her 
concerns, enabled her to dispense considerable 
charities to the poor, although her own circum- 
stances were always far from rich. All manner of 



20 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

domestic economies met her zealous attentions; 
while everything about her household bore marks 
of her care and management, and very many things 

the impress of her own hands The mother 

of George Washington, the hero of the American 
Revolutionary War, and the first President of the 
United States, claimed the noblest distinction that a 
woman should covet or gain, that of training a gifted 
son in the way he should go, and inspiring him, by 
her example, to make the way of goodness his path 
to glory." 

Life in the colonies was filled with many social 
pleasures. Hospitality abounded everywhere, and 
there was a constant round of house-parties and 
other festivities, winter and summer. "Pine 
Grove" was the mecca for relatives of the Wash- 
ington family, and a large circle of friends, both 
young and old. Always cordial and of cheerful 
spirit, Mrs. Washington, however, possessed a 
dignity of manner that at first rather repelled 
strangers, and caused children to stand somewhat 
in awe of her. Lawrence Washington, who was 
cousin and playmate of her son, George, thus speaks 
of her austerity of manner: "I was often there 
with George, his playmate, schoolmate, and young 
companion. Of the mother, I was ten times more 
afraid than I ever was of my own parents; she 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 21 

awed me in the midst of her kindness — for she was 
indeed truly kind. And even now, when time has 
whitened my locks, and I am the grandparent of 
the second generation, I could not behold that 
majestic woman without feelings it is impossible to 
describe. Whoever has seen that awe-inspiring air 
and manner so characteristic of the Father of His 
Country, will remember the matron as she appeared 
the presiding genius of her well-ordered household, 
commanding and being obeyed." 

To this description is no doubt due the universal 
impression of the stern manner of Mrs. Wash- 
ington. 

With high sense of honor and sincerity of mind, 
she is accredited with the twofold virtue of never 
gossiping, nor allowing those about her to in- 
dulge in this habit. Sincerity was with her a pro- 
nounced characteristic, and she always expected to 
a like degree the same virtue in others. It has been 
said that visitors never failed to receive from Mrs. 
Washington a gracious, cordial welcome, but when 
they once had stated that they could no longer re- 
main, she took them at their word, and afforded 
every facility to aid in their departure. 

Always prompt in meeting appointments, she 
brought up her children to observe the same habit. 
Especially did her son George thus learn the value 



22 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

of time, which served him well in the high offices 
to which he was called later on. The chaplain of 
Congress has recorded the fact that when the hour 
of noon had been fixed for the hearing of the Presi- 
dent's message, he usually "crossed the threshold as 
the clock struck the hour." When guests did not 
arrive at the appointed time for dinner, it is said 
that Washington allowed five minutes for variation 
of timepieces; and in reply to profuse apologies 
would calmly state, "I have a cook who never asks 
whether the company has come, but whether the 
hour has come." 

Among the duties of Mrs. Washington, it was of 
supreme importance that the inheritance of her 
children should be carefully guarded until each child 
on reaching majority should receive his portion. 
An adage in Virginia was, "Keep your land, and 
your land will keep you"; but Mrs. Washington 
realized that, though the maintenance of the family 
would be well assured from the income derived 
from their land, there would not be a large surplus, 
and accordingly with wisdom prepared her sons to 
earn their own living. George was sent first to an 
"old-field" school, taught by Master Hobly, the 
sexton of the parish church. Later, under the 
direction of his half-brother Lawrence, he attended 
the school of Master Williams. One winter he 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 23 

rode horseback ten miles to school each day. When 
fourteen years of age, he became exceedingly 
anxious to go to sea, and his brother Lawrence 
obtained for him a midshipman's warrant. So 
bitterly did his mother oppose such a venture that 
to please her he relinquished the idea, saying, "I 
am not going to make my mother suffer so by leav- 
ing her!" This decision was the turning-point in 
George Washington's life, for, by deciding to re- 
main at home, he soon afterwards was offered and 
accepted the position of surveyor to Lord Fairfax; 
and later became a soldier. When nineteen years 
of age, he was appointed one of the adjutant- 
generals of Virginia. The stern frontier life had 
been fitting him unconsciously for his future career, 
and he was becoming more and more imbued with 
the love of a soldier's life. It was the wish of Mrs. 
Washington that her eldest son follow the footsteps 
of his father, and reside on his own estate at 
Mount Vernon, "as became a country gentleman." 
She opposed equally as much his fighting for the 
English crown in the French and Indian Wars, as 
she did later his fighting against the crown. When 
he first set forth for the frontier beyond the Blue 
Ridge, she entreated him not to go, exclaiming "Oh, 
this fighting and killing!" But when he convinced 
her that it was a duty which he owed his country, 



24 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

she became calm, and placing her hand on his 
shoulder said, "God. is our sure trust. To Him I 
commend you." When offered by General Brad- 
dock a place on his staff, George was urged by his 
mother to decline, but he replied, "The God to 
whom you commended me, Madam, when I set out 
on a more perilous errand, defended me from all 
harm ; and I trust He will do so now." When news 
of Braddock's defeat, and the terrible slaughter of 
his soldiers, reached the little town of Fredericks- 
burg, and was conveyed to the anxious mother, she 
was forced for twelve days to be in ignorance of 
her son's safety. In a letter which portrayed char- 
acteristic calmness, he told of how for more than 
ten days he had been confined to a wagon by ill- 
ness, from which he had not half-recovered when 
the battle came on; how, physically unfitted, he had 
entered the fight, making marvelous escape with 
four bullets through his coat, and having had two 
horses shot under him. The letter concluded with 
saying that it would probably be September before 
he could hope to leave for Mount Vernon ; and that 
he was, "Honored Madam," her most dutiful son. 

In 1759, Washington married the beautiful and 
wealthy Mrs. Custis; but the hope that the mother 
entertained of his relinquishing the soldier's life 
upon marriage was not to be attained, for he soon 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 25 

entered again into the fortunes of war with keenest 
enthusiasm. When Washington returned home 
after the narrow escape from death, his mother 
drove to Mount Vernon to meet him, and insisted 
that he leave the service, as health and fortune were 
both endangered. He gave no answer at the time, 
but wrote her shortly afterward as follows : 

"Honored Madam : — If it is in my power to avoid 
going to Ohio again, I shall ; but if the command is 
pressed upon me by the general voice of the 
country, and offered upon such terms as can not be 
objected against, it would reflect dishonor upon me 
to refuse it, and that, I am sure, must or ought to 
give you greater uneasiness than my going in an 
honorable command. Upon no other terms will I 
accept it." 

With this high sense of honor and devotion to 
duty which had been instilled in him by his mother, 
Washington knew well that any reflection of this 
kind upon his name would meet with her stern dis- 
approval; and, great as was her dislike for war, 
she would make no further resistance. 

Betty, the only daughter of Mrs. Washington, at 
the age of seventeen married her uncle-in-law, 
Fielding Lewis (a widower of two months), and 
lived at "Kenmore," not far from "Pine Grove," 
the home of the Washingtons. The sons also 



26 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

having scattered to their own homes, the mother 
was left entirely alone, refusing to make her home 
elsewhere; and, busied with her simple household 
duties, she lived in quiet content. 

At length the storm of the American Revolution 
broke over the country, and Mrs. Washington was 
greatly perturbed, not only for the reason that "the 
righting and the killing" would again begin, but 
that she was closely bound to the mother country 
by ties of kinship, and was also a loyal member of 
the Church of England. And when news came that 
her son was to lead the rebellious army, she found 
it, indeed, difficult to be resigned. So bitter was 
her feeling that Washington, riding over to Freder- 
icksburg to see her, stopped first at the little inn, 
"The Indian Queen/' before going to his mother's 
home, deeming it best "to pause and reconnoiter." 
That a member of the family should put up at a 
tavern was an unheard-of occurrence, and Mrs. 
Washington, learning of his action, said, "Tell 
George to come home instantly — instantly." After a 
long and affectionate conversation, she pressed him 
to her bosom, and commending him to God, again 
gave him, with her blessing, into his country's 
service. 

During the trying times that followed, although 
often filled with alarm and anxiety, Mrs. Washing- 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 27 

ton never tolerated expressions of discouragement 
and complaint. "The mothers and wives of brave 
men," said she, "must be brave women." She fol- 
lowed with keenest interest every detail of the war, 
at the same time continuing her usual quiet mode 
of living. At the urgent request of her children, she 
had, however, given up the country home, and 
moved to Fredericksburg, to an unpretentious 
dwelling, with grounds adjoining "Kenmore," the 
estate of her son-in-law, Col. Fielding Lewis. A 
favorite resort of Mrs. Washington was a secluded 
spot, shaded with vines and trees, on the land of 
Colonel Lewis, near-by her home. To this quiet 
spot, called Oratory Rock, she retired daily that she 
might spend some time in prayer, apart from the 
noise and distractions of the world. Every day, in 
an open chaise, she drove to her farm, and there 
gave personal supervision to the work; returning 
to town with a jug of water from the spring out of 
which her husband and children had drank, and 
bringing seeds and cuttings for her garden in town. 
On one occasion her overseer was called to account 
for having departed from her instructions. 
"Madam," said he, "in my judgment the work has 
been done to better advantage than if I had followed 
your instructions." "And pray, sir," was the swift 
reply, "who gave you the right to exercise any 



28 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

judgment in the matter? I command you, sir! 
There is nothing for you to do but obey." Every 
Sabbath found her in her accustomed place at 
church; and by the example of a devout and con- 
sistent life she exerted unconsciously a strong 
influence for good. 

When news came of the victories of Trenton and 
Princeton, in the ten-days' campaign which Fred- 
erick the Great referred to as the most brilliant in 
the annals of war, congratulations poured in for the 
mother from every quarter. With calmness and 
utter freedom from undue pride, she gave reply, 
"But, my good sirs, here is too much flattery — still 
George will not forget the lessons I early taught 
him; he will not forget himself though he is the 
subject of so much praise/' And again she 
responded quietly, "George seems to have deserved 
well of his country, but we must not praise -him 
too much. George has not forgotten his duty." 

Once, so the story goes, a courier, followed by a 
great throng of people eager for news from the 
battlefield, brought to Mrs. Washington a packet 
from headquarters. To the dismay of all, she 
calmly dropped it, unread, into her pocket, remark- 
ing, "It is all right — I am well assured of that." 
The courier gently suggested, "There may have 
been a battle — the neighbors would like to know." 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 29 

Accordingly, she glanced over the contents of the 
packet, and remarked "There has been a victory" ; 
adding, "George generally carries through what- 
ever he undertakes." 

The Revolutionary War reached its crisis, and 
when the end had actually come, Washington sent 
to his mother a courier bearing news of the sur- 
render. Raising her hands toward heaven, she 
gave fervent thanks to God "that the fighting and 
killing" were now over, and that peace would again 
reign. Of the meeting between Mrs. Washington 
and her now world-famed son, Mr. Custis writes : 

"After an absence of nearly seven years, it was 
at length, on the return of the combined armies 
from Yorktown, permitted to the mother again 
to see and embrace her illustrious son. So soon as 
he had dismounted, in the midst of a numerous 
and brilliant suite, he sent to apprise her of his 
arrival, and to know when it would be her pleasure 
to receive him. No pageantry of war proclaimed 
his coming, no trumpets sounded, no banners 

waved The lady was alone, her aged hands 

employed in the works of domestic industry, when 
the good news was announced She wel- 
comed him with warm embrace, and by well- 
remembered and endearing names of his childhood ; 
enquiring as to his health, she remarked the lines 



3 o MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

which mighty cares had made on his manly coun- 
tenance, spoke much of old times and old friends — 
but of his glory, not one word." 

When Lafayette visited America, he went to 
Fredericksburg to call on the mother of the nation's 
hero. He found her working among her flowers 
— clad in a simple home-made garb, a plain 
straw hat upon her head. She bade him a cordial 
welcome, saying, "Ah, Marquis, you see an old 
woman, but come, I can make you welcome to my 
poor dwelling without the parade of changing my 
dress/' To the high praise which Lafayette 
bestowed upon her son, the characteristic reply was 
given: "I am not surprised at what George has 
done, for he was always a very good boy." 

As we read of this meeting between the great 
French commander and the mother of the American 
hero, one can but contrast the two great generals 
of France and America — Napoleon Bonaparte and 
George Washington — the one, whose brilliant career 
was cut off so suddenly, and who sank into death 
on St. Helena; the other, crowned with the laurels 
bestowed by a loyal people, living to receive the 
highest honor his nation could bestow. 

It is of interest to note that, through the Willis 
family, Mrs. Washington's descendants became 
allied to the Bonapartes. She was an ancestress of 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 31 

Catherine Willis, who at the age of thirteen mar- 
ried, and was left a widow at fourteen. Accom- 
panying her parents to Pensacola, Ela., the youth- 
ful widow met and married Achille Murat, ex- 
prince of Naples, and nephew of Napoleon Bona- 
parte. John Randolph and other friends once 
accompanied her on a trip to England, and while 
visiting one of the London art galleries, Randolph 
called attention to the portraits of Washington and 
Napoleon, hanging side by side. "Before us/' said 
he, with dramatic manner, "we have Napoleon and 
Washington — one the founder of a mighty empire, 
the other of a great Republic. " Turning to Cath- 
erine, he continued, "Behold in the Princess Murat 
the niece of both — a distinction she alone can 
claim !"* 

On the fourteenth of April, 1789, Washington 
was officially notified that he had been chosen Presi- 
dent of the United States. Before leaving for New 
York, he went to bid his mother farewell. She 
was cheerful, though failing health was evident, and 
remarked to him : "You will see me no more. Age 
and disease warn me that I shall not be long in this 
world. I trust in God I am somewhat prepared for 
a better. But go; fulfill the high destinies which 



* In the cemetery at Tallahassee, Fla., are buried the Prince 
and Princess Murat (who represent the families of Bonaparte and 
Washington). 



32 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Heaven appears to assign you; go, and may 
Heaven's and your mother's blessing be with you 
always." This was their last meeting, for she 
passed away August 25 of the same year, at the age 
of eighty-five, of cancer of the breast. On the 
twenty-seventh of August, Mrs. Washington was 
buried in the spot selected by herself, and over 
which there stands a monument erected by the 
women of America, in memory of her whose name 
stands as a type of the best and noblest in American 
motherhood. The modest dwelling which was her 
last residence in Fredericksburg is cared for by a 
society of Virginia women; and the garden, which 
was her pride and delight, is likewise lovingly 
preserved. Said Senator Daniels, at the unveiling 
of the monument to Mary Washington, at Freder- 
icksburg : 

"Fortunate is the woman, said the Greek of old, 
of whom neither good nor ill is spoken. And, cur- 
tained away from the world, the matron lived under 
the great Taskmaster's eye, in the bosom of that 

home, by whose fruit ye shall know her She 

nursed a hero at her breast. At her knee she trained 
to the love and fear of God, and to the kingly 
virtues — honor, truth, and valor, the lion of the 
tribe that gave to America liberty and independence. 
This is her title to renown. It is enough. Eternal 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 33 

dignity and heavenly grace dwell upon the brow of 
this blessed mother; nor burnished gold, nor 
sculptured stone, nor rhythmic praise could add one 

jot or one tittle to her chaste glory She was 

the unassuming wife and mother whose kingdom 
was her family, whose world was her home. In 
the shadow and in the silence, from day to day and 
year to year, she followed the guiding star of that 
truth which tells us that 'to do that which before 
us lies in daily life is the prime wisdom/ She was 
the good angel of the hearthstone — the special 
providence of tender hearts and helpless hands, 
content to bear her burden in the sequestered vale 
of life, her thoughts unperverted by false ambitions, 
and all unlooking for the great reward that crowned 
her love and toil." 

It is well that the women of her country have 
erected fitting memorials to her name, that men of 
eloquence have spoken of her virtues ; but the most 
worthy tribute to the memory of Mary Washington 
is found in the words of her illustrious son, who 
spoke this mighty sentence : "All that I am I owe 
to my mother." 



» 



34 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

The Will of Mary Washington, as recorded in 
the Clerk's office at Fredericksburg, reads as 
follows : 

"In the name of God! Amen! 

"I, Mary Washington, of Fredericksburg, in the County 
of Spotsylvania, being in good health, but calling to mind 
the uncertainty of this life, and willing to dispose of what 
remains of my worldly estate, do make and publish this 
my last Will, recommending my soul into the hands of my 
Creator, hoping for a remission of all my sins, through 
the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of 
mankind ; I dispose of my worldly estate as follows : 

"Imprimis : I give to my son General George Washing- 
ton, all my land in Acokeek Run, in the County of Stafford, 
and also my negro Ivy George to him and his heirs for- 
ever. Also my best bed, bedstead, and Virginia cloth cur- 
tains (the same that stands in my best bedroom), my 
quilted blue and white quilt, and my best dressing-glass. 

"Item. I give and devise to my son Charles Washington, 
my negro man Tom, to him and his assigns forever. 

"Item. I give and devise to my daughter Bettie Lewis, 
my phaeton and my bay horse. 

"Item. I give and devise to my daughter-in-law Hannah 
Washington, my purple cloth cloak lined with shag. 

"Item. I give and devise to my grandson, Corbin Wash- 
ington, my negro wench, old Bet, my riding-chair, and two 
black horses, to him and his assigns forever. 

"Item. I give and devise to my grandson Fielding Lewis, 
my negro man Frederick, to him and his assigns forever, 
also eight silver table spoons, half of my crockery-ware, 
and the blue and white tea china, with book-case, oval 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 35 

table, one bedstead, one pair sheets, one pair blankets and 
white cotton counterpane, two table cloths, six red leather 
chairs, half my pewter and one-half my kitchen furniture. 

"Item. I give and devise to my grandson Lawrence 
Lewis, my negro wench Lydia, to him and his assigns for- 
ever. 

"Item. I give and devise to my grand daughter, Bettie 
Curtis, my negro woman, little Bet, and her future increase, 
to her and her assigns forever. Also my largest looking- 
glass, my walnut writing desk and drawers, a square dining 
table, one bed, bedstead, bolster, one pillow, one blanket 
and pair sheets, white Virginia cloth counterpains and 
purple curtains, my red and white tea china, teaspoons, and 
the other half of my pewter and crockery ware, and the 
remainder of my iron kitchen furniture. 

"Item. I give and devise to my grandson, George Wash- 
ington, my next best glass, one bed, bedstead, bolster, one 
pillow, one pair sheets, one blanket and counterpain. 

"Item. I devise all my wearing apparel to be equally 
divided between my grand daughters, Bettie Curtis, Fannie 
Ball, and Milly Washington — but should my daughter, 
Bettie Lewis, fancy any one, two or three articles, she is 
to have them before a division thereof. 

"Lastly, I nominate and appoint my said son, General 
George Washington, executor of this, my Will, and as I 
owe few or no debts, I direct my executor to give no 
security or appraise my estate, but desire the same may be 
allotted to my devisees, with as little trouble and delay as 
may be, desiring their acceptance thereof as all the token 
I now have to give them of my love for them. 



36 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

"In witness thereof, I have hereunto set my hand and 
seal the 20th day of May, 1788. 

"Mary Washington 
"Witness, John Ferneyhough 

"Signed, sealed and published in the presence of the said 
Mary Washington and at her desire. 

"J no. Mercer. 

"Joseph Walker." 



II 

MARGARET COX RUSKIN 

MOTHER OF 
JOHN RUSKIN 

"I never disobeyed my mother; I have honored 
all women with solemn worship. — John Ruskin. 

THE words of John Ruskin ring true and 
deep in loyal affection for the mother to 
whose influence he ascribes all that is good 
in his life; and it is to his fascinating but incom- 
plete autobiography, "Praeterita," that one must 
turn to find the record of her life. 

Brief though these glimpses be of Mrs. Ruskin, 
they present, in a most interesting manner, her un- 
usual personality, firmness of character, and austere 
rules of living, which made strong impress upon her 
son. 

Margaret Cox was the daughter of Captain and 
Mrs. Cox, of Yarmouth. Her mother, who was 
early left a widow, was the capable manager of the 
Old King's Head, in Market Street, Croydon. Of 
his maternal ancestors, Ruskin states that he knew 



3 8 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

little; adding, in a rather jocular vein, that he 
wished his grandmother "were alive again, and I 
could paint her Simone Memmi's King's Head for 
a sign." Of his grandfather, his knowledge is 
summed up as follows : "My maternal grandfather 
was, as I have said, a sailor, who used to embark, 
like Robinson Crusoe, at Yarmouth, and come back 
at rare intervals, making himself very delightful at 
home. I have an idea he had something to do with 
the herring business, but am not clear on that point ; 
my mother never being much communicative con- 
cerning it. He spoiled her and her (younger) 
sister, with all his heart, when he was at home; 
unless there appeared any tendency to equivocation 
or imaginative statements on the part of the chil- 
dren, which were always unforgivable. My mother, 
being once perceived by him to have distinctly told 
him a lie, he sent the servant out forthwith to buy 
an entire bundle of new broom twigs to whip her 
with. 'They did not hurt me so much as one (twig) 
would have done/ said my mother, 'but I thought 
a good deal of it/ 

"My grandfather was killed at two-and-thirty, by 
trying to ride, instead of walk, into Croydon; he 
got his leg crushed by his horse against a wall ; and 
died of the hurt's mortifying. My mother was then 
seven or eight years old, and with her sister, was 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 39 

sent to quite a fashionable (for Croydon) day- 
school, Mrs. Rice's, where my mother was taught 
evangelical principles, and became the pattern girl 
and best needlewoman in the school ; and where my 
aunt absolutely refused evangelical principles, and 
became the plague and pet of it. My mother, be- 
ing a girl of great power, with not a little pride, 
grew more and more exemplary in her entirely con- 
scientious career, much laughed at, though much 
beloved by her sister; who had more wit, less pride, 
and no conscience." 

Except for this limited account of Margaret 
Cox's school days, little is known of her life prior 
to marriage. 

Of his father, John James Ruskin, who was the 
son of John Ruskin and Catherine Tweddale, 
Ruskin has little to say further than that "he began 
business as a wine-merchant, with no capital, and a 
considerable amount of debt bequeathed to him by 
my grandfather. He accepted the bequest, and paid 
them all before he began to lay by anything for 
himself — for which his best friends called him a 
fool, and I, without expressing any opinion as to 
his wisdom, which I knew in such matters to be at 
least equal to mine, have written on the granite slab 
over his grave that he was 'an entirely honest mer- 
chant'." That his Scotch shrewdness, industry, and 



40 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

capability for saving, served him in good stead as 
a business man is very evident from the fact that 
John James Ruskin amassed a fortune of two hun- 
dred thousand pounds. 

Of the acquaintanceship of Margaret Cox and 
John James Ruskin, which finally ripened into love 
and marriage, the following account is given in their 
son's autobiography: "At last my mother, formed 
into a consummate housewife, was sent for to Scot- 
land to take care of my paternal grandfather's 
home ; who was gradually ruining himself ; and who 
at last effectually ruined, and killed, himself. My 
father came up to London; was a clerk in a mer- 
chant's house for nine years, without a holiday; 
then began business on his own account; paid his 
father's debts ; and married his exemplary Croydon 
cousin." 

Their engagement had continued through a period 
of nine years, during which time the younger 
Ruskin had become established in business. In 
the meantime, Margaret Cox steadily endeavored 
to cultivate her powers of mind, in order to become 
the worthy companion of a man whom she con- 
sidered to be greatly her superior. Finally, one 
evening, after supper was over, the marriage took 
place, not even the servants having a suspicion of 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 41 

the event "until John and Margaret drove away 
together next morning to Edinburgh." 

In Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, London, 
the Ruskins resided, and here, on February 8, 18 19, 
John Ruskin was born, spending the first four years 
of his life amid the dull and monotonous surround- 
ings of this cheerless part of the city. Only in 
the summer, when the family went away for a few 
weeks' travel, did the world disclose to him its 
marvelous beauty and interest. 

During these early years in London, he "was 
accustomed to no other prospect than that of the 
brick walls over the way; had no brothers nor 
sisters nor companions, and though I could always 
make myself happy in a quiet way, the beauty of 
the mountains had an additional charm of change 
and adventure for me, which a country-bred child 
could not have felt." 

The younger sister of Margaret Cox had 
remained in Croydon, and married a baker. She 
was always the staunch ally of her little nephew, 
whose lonely existence appealed to her sympathetic 
heart; and tried by many little acts of kindness to 
brighten the dreary situation. 

"My mother's general principles of first treat- 
ment," says Ruskin, "were to guard me with steady 



42 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

watchfulness from all avoidable pain or danger; 
and for the rest, to let me amuse myself as I liked, 
provided I was neither fretful nor troublesome. 
But the law was, that I should find my own amuse- 
ment. No toys of any kind were at first allowed; 
and the pity of my Croydon aunt for my poverty 
in this respect was boundless. On one of my birth- 
days, thinking to overcome my mother's resolution 
by splendor of temptation, she bought the most 
radiant Punch and Judy she could find in all the 
Soho Bazaar — as big as a real Punch and Judy, all 
dressed in scarlet and gold, and that would dance, 
tied to the leg of a chair. I must have been greatly 
impressed, for I remember well the look of the two 
figures, as my aunt herself exhibited their virtues. 
My mother was obliged to accept them; but after- 
wards quietly told me it was not right that I should 
have them ; and I never saw them again. 

Nor did I painfully wish, what I was never per- 
mitted for an instant to hope or even imagine, the 
possession of such things as one saw in toyshops. 
I had a bunch of keys to play with, as long as I 
was capable of pleasure in what glittered and 
jingled; as I grew older, I had a cart, and a ball; 
and when I was five or six years old, two boxes of 
well-cut wooden bricks." 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 43 

It was in playing with wooden bricks that his 
love for architecture, even thus early in childhood, 
was aroused. 

"With these modest, but, I still think, entirely 
sufficient possessions, and being always summarily 
whipped if I cried, did not do as I was bid, or 
tumbled on the stairs, I soon attained serene and 
secure methods of life and motion ; and could pass 
my days contentedly in tracing the squares and 
comparing the colors of my carpet; examining the 
knots in the wood of the floor, or counting the 
bricks in the opposite house; the rapturous inter- 
vals of excitement during the filling of the water- 
cart, through its leathern pipe, from the dripping 
iron post at the pavement edge; or the still more 
admirable proceedings of the turncock, when he 
turned and turned till a fountain sprang up in the 
middle of the street. But the carpet, and what pat- 
terns I could find in bed-covers, dresses, or wall- 
papers to be examined, were my chief resources, 
and my attention to the particulars in these was 
soon so accurate, that when at three and a half I 
was taken to have my portrait painted by Mr. 
Northcote, I had not been ten minutes alone with 
him before I asked him why there were holes in his 
carpet. The portrait in question represents a very 
pretty child with yellow hair, dressed in a white 



44 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

frock like a girl, with a broad light-blue sash and 
blue shoes to match; the feet of the child whole- 
somely large in proportion to its body; and the 
shoes still more wholesomely large in proportion to 
the feet." 

Carefully and thoroughly trained herself, and 
desiring for her son all the advantages which would 
develop in him the noblest and highest principles, 
Mrs. Ruskin did not fail to impress upon him, from 
early infancy, the worth of education, and of a 
life devoted to the best and holiest things. 

"My mother had, as she afterwards told me," 
says Ruskin, "solemnly 'devoted me to God' before 
I was born, in imitation of Hannah. Very good 
women are remarkably apt to make away with their 
children prematurely, in this manner: the real 
meaning of the pious act being that, as the sons of 
Zebedee are not (or at least they hope not) to sit 
on the right and left of Christ, in His kingdom, their 
sons may perhaps, they think, in time be advanced 
to that respectable position in eternal life ; especially 
if they ask Christ very humbly for it every day; 
and they always forget in the most naive way that 
the position is not His to give! 'Devoting me to 
God/ meant, as far as my mother knew herself 
what she meant, that she would try to send me to 
college, and make a clergyman of me: and I was 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 45 

accordingly bred for 'the church.' My father, who 
— rest be to his soul — had the exceedingly bad habit 
of yielding to my mother in large things and taking 
his own way in little ones, allowed me, without say- 
ing a word, to be thus withdrawn from the sherry 
trade as an unclean thing; not without some 
pardonable participation in my mother's ultimate 
views for me. For many and many a year after- 
wards, I remember, while he was speaking to one 
of our artist friends, who admired Raphael, and 
greatly regretted my endeavors to interfere with 
that popular taste — while my father and he were 
condoling with each other on my having been 
impudent enough to think I could tell the public 
about Turner and Raphael — instead of contenting 
myself, as I ought, with explaining the way of their 
souls' salvation to them — and what an amiable 
clergyman was lost in me — 'Yes,' said my father, 
with tears in his eyes (true and tender tears as 
father ever shed) ; 'he would have been a Bishop.' 
"Luckily for me, my mother, under these distinct 
impressions of her own duty, and with such latent 
hopes of my future eminence, took me very early to 
church, where, in spite of my quiet habits, and my 
mother's golden vinaigrette, always indulged to me 
there, and there only, with its lid unclasped that I 
might see the wreathed open pattern above the 



46 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

sponge, I found the bottom of the pew so extremely 
dull a place to keep quiet in (my best story-books 
being also taken away from me in the morning) 
that, as I have somewhere said before, the horror 
of Sunday used even to cast its prescient gloom as 
far back in the week as Friday — and all the glory 
of Monday, with church seven days removed again, 
was no equivalent for it." 

However distasteful the strict observance of the 
Sabbath, and attendance upon church services, 
might have been to the youthful Ruskin, there was 
nevertheless a lasting impression made upon his 
infant mind, for, says he, ''Notwithstanding, I 
arrived at some abstract in my own mind of the 
Rev. Howell's sermons; and occasionally, in imita- 
tion of him, preached a sermon at home over the red 
sofa cushions — this performance being always 
called for by my mother's dearest friends, as the 
greatest accomplishment of my childhood. The 
sermon was, I believe, some eleven words long; 
very exemplary, it seems to me, in that respect — 
and I still think must have been the purest gospel, 
for I know it began, 'People, be good'." 

Although the desire of his parents that he should 
enter the ministry was not attained, yet, through 
the pure, uplifting thoughts which have come from 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 47 

his pen, Ruskin still speaks from a world-wide pul- 
pit, "People, be good/' 

When about the age of four years, Ruskin's city 
home was changed for more congenial surroundings 
at Heme Hill, where the attractive rural locality 
was most welcome to the child, who longed for 
wider acquaintance with the world. Each summer, 
as was their custom, the family made a tour 
through England, Wales, and the lowlands of Scot- 
land, soliciting orders for Mr. Ruskin's establish- 
ment. In this way they gained familiarity with "all 
the high-roads, and most of the cross ones," as far 
north as Perth, where every other year they 
remained for the entire summer. Mrs. Ruskin, as 
her son grew older, directed his reading of the his- 
tory and literature of those sections of country 
which they traversed; and as opportunity pre- 
sented, together they visited many of the splendid 
castles, magnificent art galleries, and lovely gardens. 
Thus was Ruskin's love for the artistic and beauti- 
ful developed and increased. 

Of the castles of England he writes : "To my 
farther great benefit, as I grew older, I thus saw 
nearly all the noblemen's houses in England, in 
reverent and healthy delight of uncovetous admira- 
tion — perceiving, as soon as I could perceive any 
political truth at all, that it was probably much 



48 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

happier to live in a small house, and leave Warwick 
Castle to be astonished at ; but that, at all events, it 
would not make Brunswick Square in the least 
more pleasantly habitable, to pull Warwick Castle 
down. And at this day, though I have kind invita- 
tions enough to visit America, I could not, even for 
a couple of months, live in a country so miserable 
as to possess no castles." 

This midsummer holiday was, for young Ruskin, 
the means of acquiring extensive knowledge by 
close observation, and also of developing his appre- 
ciation of the beautiful in art and nature; but the 
simple mode of life and strict discipline of his 
mother had instilled a preference for "things 
modest, humble, and pure in peace" ; and so he 
says, "while I never to this day pass a lattice- 
windowed cottage without wishing to be its cottager, 
I never yet saw the castle which I envied to be its 
lord." 

As to the methods of instruction employed by his 
mother, Ruskin says: "I think the treatment, or 
accidental conditions, of my childhood entirely 
right, for a child of my temperament : but the mode 
of my introduction to literature appears to me 
questionable, and I am not prepared to carry it out 
in St. George's schools without much modification. 
I absolutely declined to read by syllable ; but would 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 49 

get an entire sentence by heart with great facility, 
and point with accuracy to every word in the page 
as I repeated it. As, however, the words were once 
displaced, I had no more to say; my mother gave 
up, for the time, the endeavor to teach me to read, 
hoping only that I might consent, in process of 
years, to adopt the popular system of syllabic 
study. But I went on to amuse myself in my own 
way; learnt whole words at a time, as I did pat- 
terns; and at five years old was sending for my 
'second volumes' to the circulating library." His 
education progressed with a rapidity unusual for 
one of his years ; and at extremely early age he had 
developed a great liking for the writings of Homer 
and of Sir Walter Scott. In his own interesting 
way, he refers to these writers of widely differing 
times. "I am, and my father was before me, a 
violent Tory of the old school — Walter Scott's 
school, that is to say, and Homer's. I name these 
two out of the numberless great Tory writers, 
because they were my own two masters. I had 
Walter Scott's novels and the Iliad (Pope's trans- 
lation) for constant reading when I was a child, on 
week-days : on Sunday, their effect was tempered 
by Robinson Crusoe and the Pilgrim's Progress; 
my mother having it deep in her heart to make an 
evangelical clergyman of me. Fortunately, I had 



5o MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

an aunt more evangelical than my mother; and my 
aunt gave me cold mutton for Sunday's dinner, 
which — as I much preferred it hot — greatly dimin- 
ished the influence of Pilgrim's Progress; and the 
end of the matter was that I got all the noble, 
imaginative teaching of Defoe and Bunyan, and yet 
— am not an evangelical clergyman. I had, how- 
ever, still better teaching than theirs, and that com- 
pulsorily, and every day in the week. 

"Walter Scott and Pope's Homer were reading of 
my own election, and my mother forced me, by 
steady daily toil, to learn long chapters of the Bible 
by heart ; as well as to read it every syllable through, 
aloud, hard names and all, from Genesis to the 
Apocalypse, about once a year: and to that dis- 
cipline — patient, accurate, and resolute — I owe, not 
only the knowledge of the book, which I find occa- 
sionally serviceable, but much of my general power 
of taking pains, and the best part of my taste in 
literature. From Walter Scott's novels I might 
easily, as I grew older, have fallen to other people's 
novels; and Pope might, perhaps, have led me to 
take Johnson's English or Gibbon's, as types of 
language; but once knowing the 32nd of Deuter- 
onomy, the 119th Psalm, the 15th of 1st Corinthians, 
the sermon on the Mount, and most of the 
Apocalypse, every syllable by heart, and having 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 51 

always a way of thinking with myself what w r ords 
meant, it was not possible for me, even in the fool- 
ishest times of youth, to write entirely superficial 
or formal English; and the affectation of trying to 
write like Hooker and George Herbert was the most 
innocent I could have fallen into." 

The home-life of the Ruskin family was simple 
and unpretending. They lived much to themselves, 
and Ruskin recalls that, during his childhood years, 
his diet was exceedingly limited. In regard to this 
he says : "We seldom had company, even on week- 
days; and I was never allowed to come down to 
dessert, until much later in life — when I was able 
to crack other people's nuts for them (I hope they 
liked the ministration), but never to have any my- 
self ; nor anything else of dainty kind, either then or 
at other times. Once, in Hunter Street, I recollect 
my mother giving me three raisins, in the forenoon, 
out of the store cabinet; and I remember perfectly 
the first time I tasted custard, in our lodgings in 
Norfolk Street — where we had gone while the 
house was being painted, or cleaned, or something. 
My father was dining in the front room, and did 
not finish his custard; and my mother brought me 
the bottom of it into the back room." 

Associated with the elder Ruskin in business 
were two partners, making the firm of Ruskin, 



52 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Telford, and Domecq — the last-named being in 
reality the head of the establishment, and the other 
two his agents. It was to Mr. Telford's influence 
that John Ruskin attributes his attention being 
drawn to the work of Turner. An illustrated edi- 
tion of Italy was given by Mr. Telford (at the sug- 
gestion of his sisters) to Ruskin, and from that time 
on he was Turner's ardent champion, and the tenor 
of his life determined. "Poor Mr. Telford," says 
Ruskin, "was always held by papa and mamma 
primarily responsible for my Turner insanities." 

It was ever a source of regret to Ruskin that in 
his early years he seldom had companions with 
whom to play. His mother's chief personal 
pleasure was in caring for her flowers, and 
Ruskin says "was often planting or pruning 
beside me, at least if I chose to stay beside her. 
I never thought of doing anything behind her 
back which I would not have done before 
her face; and her presence was therefore no 
restraint to me." He adds, however, that being left 
alone so much in childhood caused him, by the time 
he was seven years old, to be getting independent, 
mentally, even of his father and mother; and 
having no one else to depend upon, "began to lead 
a very small, perky, contented, conceited, Cock- 
Robinson-Crusoe sort of life." Although he always 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 53 

paid high tribute to his mother in regard to the 
training which fitted him for his future notable 
career, still he felt that nothing could ever quite 
atone for the lack of young companions, and the 
extreme loneliness which marked his early years. 
He attached the blame in a measure to his father, 
who had so much confidence in his mother's judg- 
ment that he "never ventured even to help, much 
less to cross her," in the management and education 
of their son. Mrs. Ruskin, having determined that 
her son should be "an ecclesiastical gentleman," 
endeavored to keep him securely guarded from all 
worldly affairs and frivolity. 

Ruskin's education, under his mother's direction, 
progressed rapidly and with systematic preciseness. 
Referring to his studies, he says : "My mother 
never gave me more to learn than I could easily 
get learnt, if I set myself honestly to work, by 
twelve o'clock. She never allowed anything to dis- 
turb me when my task was set; if it was not said 
rightly by twelve o'clock, I was kept in till I knew 
it, and in general, even when Latin grammar came 
to supplement the Psalms, I was my own master 
for at least an hour before half-past one dinner, 
and for the rest of the afternoon." The afternoons 
were entirely his own for recreation such as he 
might choose. Having no pets to care for, or to 



54 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

make less lonely his hours for play, he says, "On 
the whole, I had nothing animate to care for, in a 
childish way, but myself, some nests of ants, which 
the gardener would never leave undisturbed for me, 
and a sociable bird or two ; though I never had the 
sense or perseverance to make one really tame. But 
that was partly because, if I ever managed to bring 
one to be the least trustful of me, the cats got it" 
On one occasion Mrs. Ruskin gave permission for 
her little son to accompany Thomas, the serving- 
man, to the stable, but expressly forbade that he go 
within reach of the dog's chain. "Lion" was at his 
dinner, and Ruskin says that, unmindful of his 
mother's parting injunction, he leaned from the 
servant's arms and attempted to pat the dog. Sud- 
denly "Lion" flew at him and bit a piece out of the 
corner of his lip. With the blood flowing profusely, 
he was borne to' his distressed mother, but still "not 
a whit frightened, except lest 'Lion' should be sent 
away." "Lion," indeed, was sent away speedily, 
and for a time the lad was ordered by his physician 
to keep perfect silence until the wound healed. Be- 
fore relapsing into a state of silence, however, he 
took opportunity to observe most soberly, "Mamma, 
though I can't speak, I can play upon the fiddle." 
This suggestion did not seem to meet with approval, 
for he adds: "But the house was of another 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 55 

opinion, and I never attained any proficiency upon 
that instrument worthy of my genius/' 

With neither companions nor pets to divert him, 
Ruskin's powers of imagination developed marvel- 
ously, and, as he says, "either fastened themselves 
on inanimate things — the sky, the leaves, and 
pebbles, observable within the walls of Eden — or 
caught at any opportunity of flight into regions of 
romance, compatible with the objective realities of 
existence in the nineteenth century, within a mile 
and a quarter of Camberwell Green." His father, 
unconsciously, aided in stimulating these imagina- 
tive powers, by entertaining him at times when his 
mother's rules permitted. It was the child's delight 
to be permitted to watch his father shave, and that 
operation concluded, to listen to a story which 
described a certain picture hanging over the dress- 
ing-table. This picture, a little watercolor, the work 
of Mr. Ruskin, Sr., had a great charm for the 
tiny lad, and he never wearied of hearing the story 
connected with it. The picture in question was "of 
Conway Castle with its Frith, and in the foreground, 
a cottage, a fisherman, and a boat at the water's 
edge." The story began with the fisherman and his 
daily doings, the plot of the drama gradually 
thickening until it became "involved with that of 
the tragedy of Douglas, and of the Castle Specter, 



56 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

in both of which pieces my father had performed in 
private theatricals, before my mother, and a select 
Edinburgh audience, when he was a boy of sixteen, 
and she at grave twenty, a model housekeeper, and 
very scornful and religiously suspicious of theatri- 
cals. But she was never weary of telling me, in 
later years, how beautiful my father looked in his 
Highland dress, with the high black feathers." (In 
a footnote in his autobiography, Ruskin says, 
"This drawing is still over the chimney-piece of 
my bedroom at Brantwood.") 

The home-life was well ordered by Mrs. Ruskin, 
and moved on in a most systematic way. "In the 
afternoons, " continues Ruskin, "when my father 
returned (always punctually) from his business, he 
dined, at half-past four, in the front parlor, my 
mother sitting beside him to hear the events of the 
day, and give counsel and encouragement with 
respect to the same — chiefly the last, for my father 
was apt to be vexed if orders for sherry fell the 
least short of their due standard, even for a day 
or two. I was never present at this time, however, 
and only avouch what I relate by hearsay and prob- 
able conjecture; for between four and six it would 
have been a grave misdemeanor in me if I so much 
as approached the parlor door. After that, in sum- 
mer time, we were all in the garden as long as the 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 57 

day lasted; tea under the white-heart cherry tree; 
or, in winter and rough weather, at six o'clock, in 
the drawing-room, I having my ■ cup of milk, and 
slice of bread-and-butter in a little recess, with a 
table in front of it, wholly sacred to me; and in 
which I remained in the evenings as an idol in a 
niche, while my mother knitted, and my father read 
to her — and to me, so far as I chose to listen." 

Continuing, he says : "Such being the salutary 
pleasures of Heme Hill, I have next with deeper 
gratitude to chronicle what I owe to my mother for 
the resolutely consistent lessons which so exercised 
me in the Scriptures as to make every word of them 
familiar to my ear in habitual music — yet in that 
familiarity reverenced, as transcending all thought, 
and ordaining all conduct. This she effected, not 
by her own sayings or personal authority, but simply 
by compelling me to read the hook thoroughly, for 
myself. As soon as I was able to read with 
fluency, she began a course of Bible work with me, 
which never ceased till I went to Oxford. She read 
alternate verses with me, watching at first every 
intonation of my voice, and correcting the false 
ones, till she made me understand the verse, if 
within my reach, rightly, and energetically. It 
might be beyond me altogether; that she did not 



58 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

care about ; but she made sure that as soon as I got 
hold of it at all, I should get hold of it by the right 
end. In this way she began with the first verse of 
Genesis, and went straight through, to the last verse 
of the Apocalypse ; hard names, numbers, Levitical 
law, and all; and began again at Genesis the next 
day. 

"If a name was hard, the better the exercise in 
pronunciation; and if a chapter was tiresome, the 
better the lesson in patience; if loathsome, the bet- 
ter the lesson in faith that there was some use in 
its being so outspoken. After our chapters (from 
two to three a day, according to their length, the 
first thing after breakfast, and no interruption from 
servants allowed — none from visitors, who either 
joined in the reading or had to stay upstairs — and 
none from any visitings or excursions, except real 
traveling), I had to learn a few verses by heart; 
or repeat, to make sure I had not lost something of 
what was already known ; and with the chapters 
thus gradually possessed from the first word to the 
last, I had to learn the whole body of the fine old 
Scotch paraphrases, which are good, melodious, 
and forceful verse ; and to which, together with the 
Bible itself, I owe the first cultivation of my ear in 
sound." Referring again to the study of the Bible, 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 59 

he says : "It is strange that of all the pieces of the 
Bible which my mother taught me, that which cost 
me most to learn, and which was to my child's 
mind chiefly repulsive — the 119th Psalm — has now 
become of all the most precious to me, in its overs, 
flowing and glorious passion of love for the love 
of God, in opposition to the abuse of it by modern 
preachers of what they imagine to be His gospel. 
But it is only by deliberate effort that I recall the 
long morning hours of toil, as regular as sunrise, 
toil on both sides equal — by which, year after year, 
my mother forced me to learn these paraphases, 
and chapters (the eighth of 1st Kings being one — 
try it, good reader, in a leisure hour!), allowing 
not so much as a syllable to be missed or misplaced ; 
while every sentence was required to be said over 
and over again till she was satisfied with the accent 
of it. 

"I recollect a struggle between us of about three 
weeks, concerning the accent of the 'of, in the lines 
" 'Shall any following spring revive 
The ashes of the urn?' 

"I insisting, partly in childish obstinacy, and partly 
in true instinct for rhythm (being wholly careless 
on the subject both of urns and their contents), 
on reciting it with an accent of. It was not, I say, 



60 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

till after three weeks' labor, that my mother got 
the accent lightened on the 'of and laid on the 
ashes to her mind. But had it taken three years she 
would have done it, having once undertaken to do 
it. And, assuredly, had she not done it — well, 
there's no knowing what would have happened; 
but I'm very thankful she did. 

"I have just opened my oldest (in use) Bible — a 
small, closely, and very neatly printed volume it is, 
printed in Edinburgh by Sir D. Hunter Blair and 
J. Bruce, Printers to the King's Most Excellent 
Majesty, in 1816. Yellow now, with age, and 
flexible, but not unclean, with much use, except 
that the lower corners of the pages at 8th of 1st 
Kings, and 32nd Deuteronomy, are now somewhat 
thin and dark, the learning of these two chapters 
having cost me much pains. My mother's list of 
the chapters with which thus learned, she estab- 
lished my soul in life, has just fallen out of it.*' 
(At this point, Ruskin appends the following foot- 
note : "This expression in Fors has naturally been 
supposed by some readers to mean that my mother 
at this time made me vitally and evangelically 
religious. The fact was far otherwise. I meant 
only that she gave me secure ground for all future 
life, practical or spiritual.") 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 61 

Continuing, he says : "I will take what indul- 
gence the incurious reader can give me, for print- 
ing the list thus accidentally occurrent: 

Exodus — Chapters 15th and 20th. 

2 Samuel — Chapter 1st, from 17th verse to the end. 

1 Kings — Chapter 8th. 

Psalms — 23rd, 32nd, 90th, 91st, 103rd, 112th, 119th, 139th. 

Proverbs — Chapters 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 12th. 

Isaiah— Chapter 58th. 

Matthew— Chapters 5th, 6th, 7th. 

Acts— Chapter 26th. 

1 Corinthians — Chapters 13th, 15th. 

James — Chapter 4th. 

Revelation — Chapters 5th, 6th. 

"And truly, though I have picked up the elements 
of a little further knowledge — in mathematics, 
meteorology, and the like, in after life — and owe 
not a little to the teachings of many people, this 
maternal installation of my mind in that property 
of chapters, I count very confidently the most 
precious, and on the whole the one essential, part 
of my education." 

In this home-training, so thorough and so pains- 
taking, and at the same time gentle and loving, 
Ruskin counts among the best and truest blessings 
which attended his early days the fact that he was 



62 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

taught "the perfect meaning of Peace, in thought, 
act, and word." Never once did he hear the voice 
of either father or mother raised in question with 
each other; nor ever did he see "an angry, or even 
slightly hurt or offended, glance in the eyes of 
either." 

He never heard a servant scolded by either of 
his parents ; and, in short, states that he never wit- 
nessed a moment's disorder or trouble in regard to 
any household matter. And so, amid these quiet, 
peaceful surroundings, it is not surprising that, as 
a child, he learned to know the meaning of peace 
in its fullest, truest sense. 

Next, he adds, was learned obedience, and faith, 
forming with peace a trio of virtues which were 
to mold and strengthen his future life. 

Among the blessings which attended his child- 
hood, Ruskin speaks of "an extreme perfection in 
palate and all other bodily senses, given by the utter 
prohibition of cake, wine, comfits, or, except in 
care fullest restriction, fruit; and by fine prepara- 
tion of what food was given me." He felt in 
maturer years that this early training laid the 
foundation for all future success ; and though deem- 
ing his life, during childhood days, far too lonely 
and uneventful, as well as too formal and luxurious, 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 63 

he never questioned the wisdom of his mother's 
methods and principles.* 

His parents being anxious that their son should 
receive the best advantages, tutors were employed 
until he was ready to enter Christ Church College, 
at Oxford, from which he graduated at the age of 
twenty-three. 

The three years of residence at Oxford, Mrs. 
Ruskin spent with him, "Not," says he, "because 
she could not part with me — still less, because she 
distrusted me. She came simply that she might be 
at hand in case of accident or sudden illness. She 
had always been my physician as well as my nurse ; 
on several occasions her timely watchfulness had 
saved me from the most serious danger; nor was 
her caution now, as will be seen, unjustified by the 
event. But, for the first two years of my college 
life, I caused her no anxiety; and my day was 
always happier because I could tell her at tea what- 
ever had pleased or profited me in it." Continuing, 
he says, "I count it just a little to my credit that I 
was not ashamed, but pleased, that my mother came 
to Oxford with me, to take such care of me as she 



*Mrs. Ruskin afterwards realized that her son had perhaps been 
too much sheltered and protected, and had experienced too little 
the hardships necessary for the development of strong manhood. 
In regard to this, he says : "My mother saw this herself, and but 
too clearly, in later years ; and whenever I did anything wrong, 
stupid, or hard-hearted (and I have done many things that were 
all three), always said, 'It is because you were too much 
indulged'." 



64 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

could. Through all the three years of residence, 
during term time, she had lodging in the High 
Street (first in Mr. Adams' pretty house of six- 
teenth century woodwork) ; and my father lived 
alone all the week at Heme Hill, parting with wife 
and son at once, for the son's sake. On the Satur- 
day, he came down to us, and I went with him and 
my mother, in the old domestic way, to St. Peter's, 
for the Sunday morning service : otherwise they 
never appeared with me in public, lest my com- 
panions should laugh at me, or anyone else ask 
malicious questions concerning vintner papa and his 
old-fashioned wife. None of the men, through my 
whole college career, ever said one word in depre- 
cation of either of them, or in any sarcasm at my 
habitually spending my evenings with my mother." 
The deep love which he felt for her is evidenced 
by the willingness to make any sacrifice for her 
sake : "The quite happiest bit of manual work I 
ever did was for my mother, in the old inn at Sixt, 
when she alleged the stone staircase to have become 
unpleasantly dirty since last year. Nobody in the 
inn appearing to think it possible to wash it. I 
brought the necessary buckets of water from the 
yard myself, and poured them into beautiful 
image of Versailles waterworks down the fifteen 
or twenty steps of the great staircase, and with the 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 65 

strongest broom I could find, cleaned every step 
into its corners. It was quite lovely work to dash 
the water and drive the mud from each, with accu- 
mulating splash, down to the next one." 

During the third year of Ruskin's Oxford term, 
his health became quite seriously impaired, and he 
needed the ministrations of the devoted mother, 
who nursed him tenderly and who later bore him 
away to Heme Hill for a month or two where with 
rest and abundance of fresh air he soon regained 
health and strength. After college days were over, 
the family of three extended their travels on the 
Continent, deriving much pleasure and profit there- 
from. Mrs. Ruskin felt keen disappointment that 
her cherished ambition would not be realized in 
seeing her son enter the ministry, but believed in 
his ability to rise to some worthy position in the 
world, little foreseeing, however, the eminence to 
which his future literary efforts would bring him. 
The diligent training in early life which she had 
bestowed, his college career, and the manifold 
advantage of travel, all proved to be excellent 
equipment for his chosen life-work. 

Little is recorded of Ruskin's affaires de cceur; 
but occasionally some reference is made to such 
matters, in which his mother took keen interest. 
One attachment, especially, caused Mrs. Ruskin 



66 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

much uneasiness. This was his fondness for Adele 
Domecq, daughter of Mr. Ruskin's partner. She 
was "a graceful, oval-faced blonde," attractive and 
talented, but a Roman Catholic in faith, which 
alone debarred her in the mother's eyes as eligible 
to be her son's wife. To Adele he addressed son- 
nets, wrote long letters in French, and was for a 
time ardent in devotion ; but the affair finally ended, 
to the satisfaction of Mrs. Ruskin, in the young 
couple drifting apart. 

The elder Ruskin, after a long season of ill 
health, passed away, being survived for many years 
by his wife. Joanna Agnew, a near relative on the 
Ruskin side of the house, was employed by Ruskin 
to be a companion to his mother, who would, other- 
wise, have been left entirely alone. A warm attach- 
ment sprang up between the two women, who for 
seven years — until Joanna's marriage — lived to- 
gether in great congeniality. 

;£ ;jc ^c ^c ^c ^c :£ 

The incompleteness of Ruskin's autobiography 
brings to an abrupt ending the brief story of his 
mother's life, which is so closely interwoven with 
that of her idolized son. 

The family record, as given by Ruskin, shows 
that she lived to the advanced age of ninety-one 
years, dying in the year 187 1. 



Ill 

MARGARET AITKEN 
CARLYLE 

MOTHER OF 
THOMAS CARLYLE 

"If there has been any good in the things I have 
uttered in the world's hearing, it was your voice 
essentially that was speaking through me!' — 
Thomas Carlyle. 

THE little market town, Ecclefechan, in 
Dumfriesshire, Scotland, where lived 
the Carlyle family, was typically Scotch, 
both in general aspect and in mode of life. A 
single street, on one side of which ran an open 
brook, was bordered by plain, unpretentious dwell- 
ings, presenting a cold but clean and orderly 
appearance, suggestive of thrift and of an un- 
assuming manner of living. 

The Carlyle home was perhaps the only one 
having any pretension to originality of architec- 
ture. It was a double house, with central arch 
dividing; one side being occupied by James Car- 



68 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

lyle, while his brother, wbo was his partner in 
trade, lived in the other. 

In 1 79 1, James Carlyle married a distant cousin, 
Janet Carlyle, who died not long afterwards, leav- 
ing a son named John. Two years after the death 
of Janet Carlyle, James Carlyle married Margaret 
Aitken, a young woman of many fine traits of char- 
acter, of amiable disposition and quiet tastes. Four 
sons and five daughters (one of the latter named 
Janet for the first wife) were born to James and 
Margaret Carlyle. 

The affairs of the household were conducted by 
the mother with greatest economy and prudence; 
the father, who followed the trade of a mason, 
earning, when most actively at work, only one hun- 
dred pounds a year for the support of his large 
family. By skillful management, the slender in- 
come was wisely expended, and the home-life 
moved smoothly on — no allusion ever being made 
to poverty, for in the life of Ecclefechan the Car- 
lyle family was accounted prosperous. The 
family living consisted mainly of potatoes, oatmeal, 
and milk; the children were plainly but neatly 
dressed, and ran about the streets barefooted, con- 
tented, and happy. Of the necessities of life they 
had abundance ; of its luxuries they knew little, and 
felt not the lack. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 69 

Of the nine children born to James and Mar- 
garet Carlyle, Thomas, born December 4, 1795, 
was the eldest. Between the mother and her first- 
born child there always seemed to be a peculiarly 
strong bond of affection and congeniality; and, in 
writing of her, Thomas Carlyle says, "She was a 
woman of, to me, the fairest descent, that of the 
pious, the just, and the wise." 

In his will, Carlyle expressed a desire that no 
biography of himself should be written; but recog- 
nizing the fact that his request would, in all prob- 
ability, be disregarded, later made arrangements 
with friends in order that, since it must be written, 
the biography should be authentic. And it is to his 
life history, and to his correspondence with his 
mother, that we turn to find the story of her life. 

When her children were quite small, they were 
taught by Mrs. Carlyle to read; but as she knew 
nothing of writing, their education under her in- 
struction was extremely limited. Later, however, 
she learned to write, for the express purpose of 
corresponding with the idolized son, Thomas. 

To the father fell the task of instructing the 
children in arithmetic; and at five years of age 
Thomas commenced the study of mathematics, 
having already been taught by his mother to read. 
Soon he was far enough advanced in his studies 



yo MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

to be sent to the village school. Like most of the 
Carlyles, he was possessed of a violent temper, 
and his companions in the schoolroom were not 
oblivious to that fact, making life, at times, quite 
unpleasant for him. Carlyle, himself, says that his 
earliest recollection was of being "in a howling 
rage," when only two years old, and of throwing 
his little brown stool at his half-brother John, who 
lived at his grandfather's, and occasionally came to 
visit his father. A leg of the stool was broken, and 
Thomas says that he "felt for the first time, the 
united pangs of loss and remorse." Mrs. Carlyle, 
foreseeing the unhappiness in store for Thomas if 
his temper were not restrained, made him promise 
never to return a blow. It is said that he tried 
faithfully to keep this promise; and to the ever- 
watchful care of his mother "for body and soul," 
he always said that he "owed ceaseless gratitude." 
Of the home-life, and of his parents, Carlyle 
writes: "It was not a joyful life, but what life is? 
Yet a safe and quiet one, above most others, or any 
other I have witnessed, a wholesome one. We 
were taciturn rather than talkative ; but if little was 
said, that little had generally a meaning. More re- 
markable man than my father I have never met in 
my journey through life; sterling sincerity in 
thought, word, and deed; most quiet, but capable 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 71 

of blazing into whirlwinds when needful ; and such 
a flash of just insight and brief natural eloquence 
and emphasis, true to every feature of it, as I have 
never known in any other. Humor of a most grim 
Scandinavian type he occasionally had, wit rarely 
or never — too serious for wit — my excellent mother 
with perhaps the deeper piety in most senses had 
also the most sport. No man of my day, or hardly 
any man, can have had better parents." 

As Thomas grew older, the comradeship between 
mother and son grew stronger, while the father 
was always held in awe. "We all had to complain," 
says Carlyle, "that we dared not freely love our 
father. His heart seemed as if walled in. My 
mother has owned to me that she could never 
understand him, and that her affection and admira- 
tion of him were obstructed. It seemed as if an 
atmosphere of fear repelled us from him, me espe- 
cially. My heart and tongue played freely with 
my mother." 

Both parents were exceedingly ambitious for the 
education of Thomas, so in the fall of 1809, when 
he had reached the age of fourteen years, it was 
decided that he should enter the University at Edin- 
burgh. Under the guardianship of an elder lad, he 
was to walk the entire distance of one hundred 
miles, as the limited family purse did not admit of 



72 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

coach-hire. Fifty-seven years later he wrote: 
"How strangely vivid, how remote and wonderful, 
tinged with the hues of far-off love and sadness, is 
that journey to me now, after fifty-seven years of 
time ! My mother and father walking with me in 
the dark frosty November morning through the 
village to set us on our way — my dear and loving 
mother, her tremulous affection . . . . " 

Life in Edinburgh was full of new and interest- 
ing experiences ; but, in order to secure the coveted 
education, Carlyle was compelled to live in a most 
frugal manner, being unable to afford other than 
the simplest food. Potatoes, oatmeal, and eggs, 
were sent occasionally from home by the loving 
mother, to supplement the scanty fare. 

Destined by his parents to become a minister, 
and knowing this to be the most ardent desire of 
their life, Carlyle set about to prepare himself for 
that calling, realizing all the while that he did not 
have "the least enthusiasm for that business." In 
fact, he was aware, even then, that "grave pro- 
hibitory doubts were gradually rising ahead." 

Leaving college with still before him the intent 
of entering the ministry, Carlyle accepted a tutor- 
ship at Annan. The only redeeming feature con- 
nected with this position was that he was now 
much nearer to his home, and the mother to whom 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 73 

he was most tenderly devoted. Annan, with its un- 
pleasant memories of early schooldays, he heartily 
detested; and when not engaged in teaching, he 
shut himself up among his books. Amid these 
gloomy surroundings, the only gleam of brightness 
that cheered his weary existence was the corres- 
pondence with his mother, his love for whom is 
said, by his biographer, Froude, to have been "the 
strongest personal passion which he experienced 
through all his life." 

James Carlyle, having retired from active busi- 
ness in Ecclefechan, the Carlyle family moved to 
Mainhill, a farm two miles distant, in a bleak and - 
cheerless locality. Here, in a low, whitewashed 
cottage, consisting of three rooms, lived the father, 
mother, and eight children; the father and sons 
cultivating the little farm, while the mother and 
daughters attended to household duties, and cared 
for poultry and cows, assisting also in the field at -, 
harvest time. Thomas spent his holidays at home, 
and it was at Mainhill that he "first learned Ger- 
man, studied 'Faust' in a dry ditch, and completed 
his translation of 'Wilhelm Meister'." 

The correspondence between mother and son, 
which continued whenever he was absent from 
home, was not voluminous on her part; for Mar- 
garet Carlyle only learned to write after she had 



74 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

reached mature years, and it was no easy matter 
for her to pen even a short letter. But to her, 
no sacrifice was too great to be made for her be- 
loved "Tom"; and a like affection was returned by 
him. Whatever he earned — however little the 
amount — he was eager to share with her. She 
was the one person who believed in him, prayed for 
him in agony when she thought him unbelieving, 
and in a transport of joy when she thought him 
safe in belief. She became ill if she did not hear 
from him as often as she expected; and his letters 
to her were treasured next to her Bible. 

At the end of two years, Carlyle received an 
appointment at Kirkcaldy, and here life was to 
some extent more pleasant than at Annan. He, 
however, "hated schoolmastering" to such a degree 
that the new position was liked by him far less 
than he would admit to his mother, who rejoiced to 
think that he was now situated amid more con- 
genial surroundings. 

Margaret Carlyle was a Calvinist of the most 
pronounced type, and the spiritual welfare of her 
children was her constant concern. The eldest 
son was the object of her chief est hopes, and she 
grieved to see that he had no inclination to be a 
minister, which from his infancy had been her 
great desire. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 75 

The following letter is most characteristic: 

Mainhill: June 10, 1817 
Dear Son: 

I take this opportunity of writing you a few lines, as 
you will get it free. I long to have a craik [familiar 
talk], and look forward to August, trusting to see thee 
once more, but in hope the meantime. Oh, Tom, mind 
the golden season of youth, and remember your Creator 
in the days of youth. Seek God while He may be found. 
Call upon him while he is near. We hear that the world 
by wisdom knew not God. Pray for his presence with 
you and His counsel to guide you. 

Have you got through the Bible yet? If you have, read 
it again. I hope you will not weary, and may the Lord 
open your understanding. 

I have no news to tell you, but thank God we are all 
in an ordinary way. I hope you are well. I thought you 
would have written me before now. I received your 
present and was very proud of it I called it "my son's 
venison." Do write as soon as this comes to hand and 
tell us all your news. I am glad you are so contented in 
your place. We ought all to be thankful for our places 
in these distressing times, for I dare say they are felt 
keenly. 

We send you a piece of ham and a minding of butter, 
as I am sure yours is done before now. Tell us about 
it in your next, and if anything is wanting. 

Good night, Tom, for it is a stormy night, and I must 
away to the byre to milk. 

Now, Tom, be sure to tell me about your chapters. 
No more from 

Your Old Minnie 



76 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Letters from other members of the family came 
frequently, also, to the absent brother, for the 
Carlyles were "a clannish folk" ; and they felt not 
only deep affection for each other, but an increas- 
ing pride in the one of their number whose 
scholarly gifts they recognized and held in high 
estimation. 

These letters from home give an interesting 
picture of country life at Mainhill. The family 
was an industrious one — the younger children 
attending school, and helping with home duties ; 
while the older children assisted in the cultivation 
of the farm. Such spare time as was obtainable in 
this busy life, was given over to the reading of 
history, or of Scott's novels, or books of like nature, 
from the very limited library. 

In the summer of 1817, the mother, overburdened 
with the cares and duties of farm life, suffered a 
heavy illness. For a time her physical condition 
was very serious, and this state of health finally 
told upon her mental faculties, which became over- 
clouded to such an extent that it was found neces- 
sary to take her away from home for a few weeks 
for treatment. For this removal from home, she 
never fully forgave the family, always afterward 
referring to it in her humorous way. With the 
return of physical strength, she soon, however, 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 77 

regained vigor of mind, and resumed her former 
active, industrious manner of life. A letter to 
Thomas Carlyle from his brother, John, speaks of 
the mother's improved condition, after her severe 
illness. 

Mainhill: September 16, 1818 
Dear Brother : 

We received yours and it told of your safe arrival at 
Kirkcaldy. Our mother has grown better every day since 
you left us. She is as steady as ever she was, has been 
upon haystacks three or four times, and has been at 
church every Sabbath since she came home, behaving 
always very decently. Also she has given over talking and 
singing, and spends some of her time consulting Ralph 
Erskine. She sleeps every night, and hinders no person 
to sleep, but can do with less than the generality of peo- 
ple. In fact, we may conclude that she is as wise as could 
be expected. She has none of the hypocritical mask with 
which some people clothe their sentiments. One day, 
having met Agg Byers, she says: "Weel, Agg, lass, I've 
never spoken t'ye sin ye stole our coals. I'll gie ye advice : 
never steal nae more." 

In a letter from Alexander Carlyle there is the 
following allusion to a gift from Thomas : 

The box which contained my mother's bonnet came a 
day or two ago. She is very well pleased with it, though 
my father thought it too gaudy, but she proposes writing 
to you herself. 



78 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

All idea of entering the ministry had now been 
abandoned by Carlyle. In a note to a friend, he 
said : "With me, it [the ministry] was never much 
in favor, though my parents much wished it, as 
I knew well. Finding that I had objections, my 
father, with a magnanimity which I admired and 
admire, left me frankly to my own guidance in that 
matter, as did my mother, perhaps still more 
lovingly, though not so silently." 

In December, 1818, Carlyle left Kirkcaldy for 
Edinburgh, and a letter from his mother expresses, 
at this time, her continued solicitude for his wel- 
fare, both temporal and spiritual: 

Mainhill: January 3, 1819 
Dear Son : 

I received yours in due time, and was glad to hear 
you were well. I hope you will be healthier, moving 
about in the city, than in your former way. Health is a 
valuable privilege; try to improve on it then. The time 
is short. Another year has commenced. Time is on the 
wing, and flies swiftly. Seek God with all your heart; 
and oh, my dear son, cease not to pray for His counsel 
in all his ways. Fear not the world, you will be provided 
for as He sees meet for you. 

As a sincere friend, whom you are always dear to, I 
beg you do not neglect reading a part of your Bible 
daily, and may the Lord open your eyes to see wondrous 
things out of his law ! 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 79 

But it is now two o'clock in the morning, and a bad 
pen, bad ink, and I am bad at writing. 
I will drop it, and add no more, but remain. 
Your loving mother 

Peggie Carlyle 

"Schoolmastering" had, by this time, become too 
distasteful to him to continue longer at it, and, after 
considering civil engineering, for which his love of 
mathematics gave him natural inclination, Carlyle 
decided to commence the study of law. His 
family, although silently disapproving the step he 
had taken, rendered what assistance they could give 
toward his support while thus engaged. Fre- 
quently there came from home supplies of oat- 
meal, butter, potatoes, etc., and at times clothing 
was also sent to him. His soiled linen was returned 
for the mother to wash and mend, simple gifts 
often accompanying the bundle. Money was 
scarce, and Carlyle had necessarily to school him- 
self to thrifty, self-denying habits; but with reso- 
lution he faced the situation which confronted him. 
One hundred pounds had been saved from his 
earnings ; and this, supplemented by assistance 
from home, must serve him for a long time. 

As his first exercise in the Divinity School, he 
had written a sermon on the salutary effects of 
"afflictions." His biographer, Froude, says: "He 



80 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

was beginning now, in addition to the problem of 
living which he had to solve, to learn what afflic- 
tion meant. He was attacked with dyspepsia, 
which never wholly left him, and in those early 
years assumed its most torturing form; 'like a rat 
gnawing at the pit of his stomach/ His disorder 
working on his natural irritability, found escape in 
expressions which showed, at any rate, that he was 
attaining a mastery of language." 

In spite, however, of the attendant woes 
occasioned by ill-health and insufficient means, 
Carlyle was not losing heart, for he liked his new 
profession, and was studying diligently. Writing 
to his mother, he says : "The law is what I some- 
times think I was intended for naturally. I am 
afraid it takes several hundreds to become an 
advocate ; but for this I should commence the study 
of it with great hopes of success. We shall see 
whether it is possible. One of the first advocates 
of the day raised himself from being a discon- 
solate preacher to his present eminence. There- 
fore, I entreat you not to be uneasy about me. I 
see none of my fellows with whom I am very 
anxious to change places. Tell the boys not to let 
their hearts be troubled for me. I am a stubborn 
dog, and evil fortune shall not break my heart, or 
bend it either, as I hope. I know not how to speak 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 81 

about the washing, which you offer so kindly. 
Surely you thought, five years ago, that this trouble- 
some washing and baking was all over; and now to 
recommence ! I can scarcely think of troubling 
you; yet the clothes are ill-washed here; and if 
the box be going and coming anyway, perhaps you 
can manage it." 

In order to make his small amount of capital 
hold out during the term in Edinburgh, Carlyle 
attempted to obtain a few pupils, but this 
measure did not prove successful. He was, how- 
ever, employed by Dr. Brewster (afterward Sir 
David) to assist in work on an encyclopedia, and 
this brought him in about two pounds a week, 
enabling him to live in greater comfort. 

Letters from his mother continued to come, bring- 
ing encouragement and loving counsel. Hearing 
of the death of an aunt, he wrote the following: 

Edinburgh, Monday, March 29th, 1819 
My Dear Mother: 

I am so much obliged to you for the affectionate con- 
cern which you express for me in that long letter that I 
cannot delay to send you a few brief words by way of 
reply. I was affected by the short notice you gave me of 
Aunt Mary's death, and the short reflections with which 
you close it. It is true, my dear mother, "that we must 
all soon follow her" — such is the unalterable and not 



82 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

pleasing doom of men. Then it is well for those who, at 
that awful moment which is before every one, shall be 
able to look back with calmness and forward with hope. 
But I need not dwell upon this solemn subject. It is 
familiar to the thoughts of every one who has any thought. 

I am rather afraid I have not been quite regular in 
reading that best of books which you recommend to me. 
However, last night I was reading upon my favorite Job, 
and I hope to do better in time to come. 

I entreat you to believe that I am sincerely desirous of 
being a good man; and though we may differ in some 
unimportant particulars, yet I firmly trust that the same 
power which created us with imperfect faculties will 
pardon the errors of every one (and none are without 
them) who seeks truth and righteousness with a simple 
heart. 

You need not fear my studying too much. In fact, my 
prospects are so unsettled that I do not often sit down 
to books with all the zeal I am capable of. You need not 
think I am fretful. I have long accustomed myself to 
look upon the future with a sedate aspect, and at any 
rate my hopes have never yet failed me. A French author, 
D'Alembert (one of the few persons who deserve the 
honorable epithet of honest man), whom I was lately 
reading, remarks that one who devoted his life to learn- 
ing ought to carry for his motto : "Liberty, Truth, 
Poverty"; for he that fears the latter can never have the 
former. This should not prevent one from using every 
honest effort to attain a comfortable situation in life ; it 
says only that the best is dearly bought by base conduct, 
and the worst is not worth mourning over. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 83 

We shall speak of all these matters more fully in sum- 
mer, for I am meditating just now to come down and 
stay awhile with you, accompanied with a cargo of books — 
Italian, German, and others. You will give me yonder 
little room, and you will waken me every morning about 
five or six o'clock. Then such study. I shall delve in 
the garden, too, and in a word, become not only the 
wisest, but the strongest man in these regions. This is 
all claver, but it pleases one. 

My dear mother, yours most affectionately 

Thomas Carlyle 

The name of D'Alembert had never come within 
the scope of Mrs. Carlyle's knowledge, and fearing 
that her son might be entering into perilous paths, 
she wrote to him immediately: 

Oh, my dear son, I would pray for a blessing on your 
learning. I beg you with all the feeling of an affectionate 
mother that you study the Word of God, which He has 
graciously put in our hands that it may powerfully reach 
our hearts, that we may discern it in its true light. 

God made man after His own image, therefore he be- 
hoved to be without any imperfect faculties. Beware, my 
dear son, of such thoughts ; let them not dwell on your 
mind. God forbid ! But I dare say you will not care 
to read this scrawl. Do make religion your great study, 
Tom ; if you repent it, I will bear the blame forever. 

And his state of mind in regard to religion, was, 
indeed, now uncertain and gloomy. Froude says 
.... "Carlyle was thinking as much as his mother 



84 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

of religion, but the form in which his thoughts 
were running was not hers. He was painfully see- 
ing that all things were not wholly as he had been 
taught to think them ; the doubts which had stopped 
his divinity career were blackening into thunder- 
clouds; and all his reflections were colored by dys- 
pepsia." He was entering now upon the "three 
most miserable years of my life," and in addition 
to religious doubts and fears, his intended profes- 
sion was, at this time, becoming distasteful to him. 
England and Scotland were in an unhappy polit- 
ical state; many people were without work, and 
their families on the verge of starvation; and, 
altogether, conditions and circumstances during 
these unhappy years were calculated to leave im- 
pressions upon Carlyle which may be traced 
throughout his writings. A summer spent at home, 
after the session at Edinburgh, did not bring hap- 
piness nor relief from doubt and deep question- 
ings. The pious family at Mainhill accepted the 
Bible "as a direct communication from Heaven," 
at the same time reposing a calm and implacable 
faith in the Westminster Confession, and could 
little sympathize with the unhappy frame of mind 
in which Thomas was now living. He says that 
he "was tortured by the freaks of an imagination 
of extraordinary and wild activity," which made 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 85 

him most miserable. Unable to read, he wandered 
restlessly over the moors; the father, with good 
judgment, leaving him to himself, but the agonizing 
mother could not keep back her pleadings and 
lamentations, for her eldest son was the chief object 
of her love and ambition. 

In November, 1819, Thomas returned to Edin- 
burgh, and resumed the study of law. Writing to 
his mother in a more cheerful vein, he says : "The 
law I find to be a most complicated subject, yet I 
like it pretty well and feel that I shall like it better 
as I proceed. Its great charm in my eyes is that 
no mean compliances are requisite for prospering 
in it." 

The winter proved to be far from pleasant, for 
a severe attack of dyspepsia gave him much un- 
easiness and alarmed the family greatly as to his 
physical condition. A letter from his brother John, 
dated Mainhill, February, 1820, says : "Your 
father and mother and all of us are extremely 
anxious that you should come home directly, if pos- 
sible, if you think you can come without danger. 
And we trust that, notwithstanding the bitterness of 
last summer, you will still find it emphatically a 
home. My mother bids me call upon you to do so, 
by every tie of affection, and by all that is sacred. 



86 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

She esteems seeing you again, and administering 
comfort to you, as her highest felicity." 

The mother knew well his disposition, and 
feared the effect of his despondent and irritable 
condition of mind. She had early described him 
as "gey ill to live wi'," but no one knew quite so 
well how to deal with his peculiarities and idiosyn- 
crasies as she, nor could so lovingly and anxiously 
foresee and meet his wants. The attack finally 
passed off, and Thomas, having recovered some- 
what both health and spirits, remained in Edin- 
burgh, diligently pursuing his studies. 

In the spring of this year the following letter 
came to his mother: 

Edinburgh, March 29th, 1820 
To you, my dear mother, I can never be sufficiently 
grateful, not only for the common kindness of a mother, 
but for the unceasing watchfulness with which, you strove 
to instil virtuous principles into my young mind; and 
though we are separated at present, and may be still more 
widely separated, I hope the lessons which you taught 
will never be effaced from my memory. 

I cannot say how I have fallen into this train of thought, 
but the days of childhood arise with so many pleasing 
recollections, and shine so brightly across the tempests 
and inquietudes of succeeding times, that I feel unable to 
resist the impulse. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 87 

You already know that I am pretty well as to health, 
and also that I design to visit you again before many 
months have elapsed. I cannot say that my prospects, 
have got much brighter since I left you; the aspect of 
the future is still as unsettled as it ever was; but some 
degree of patience is behind, and hope, the charmer, that 
"springs eternal in the human breast," is yet here likewise, 
I am not of a humor to care very much for good or evil 
fortune, so far as concerns myself; the thought that my 
somewhat uncertain condition gives you uneasiness 
chiefly grieves me. Yet I would not have you despair of 
your ribe of a boy. He mill do something yet. He is a 
shy stingy soul, and very likely has a higher notion of his 
parts than others have. But on the other hand, he is not 
incapable of diligence. He is harmless, and possesses the 
virtue of his country — thrift; so that, after all, things will 
yet be right in the end. 

My love to all the little ones. 

Your affectionate son 

T. Cari,yi^ 

In December of the same year, another letter 
showed him to be still battling with conflicting 
doubts and beliefs — writing a little at times, and 
keeping always before him the determination 
which his mother's unwavering faith in him sus- 
tained, "to do something yet." 

I know full well and feel deeply that you entertain the 
most solicitous anxiety about my temporal, and still more 
about my eternal welfare; as to the former of which, I 



88 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

have still hopes that all your tenderness will yet be repaid; 
and as to the latter, though it becomes not the human 
worm to boast, I would fain persuade you not to enter- 
tain so many doubts. 

Your character and rriine are far more similar than you 
imagine, and our opinions too, though clothed in different 
garbs, are, I well know, still analogous at bottom. I 
respect your religious sentiments, and honor you for feel- 
ing them more than if you were the highest woman in the 
world without them. Be easy, I entreat you, on my 
account; the world will use me better than before; and if 
it should not, let us hope to meet in that upper country 
when the vain fever of life is gone by, in the country 
where all darkness will be light, and where the exercise 
of our affections will not be thwarted by the infirmities 
of human nature any more. 

Brewster will give me articles enough. Meanwhile my 
living here is not to cost me anything, at least for a sea- 
son more or less. I have two hours of teaching, which 
both gives me a call to walk and brings in four guineas a 
month. 

A few weeks later he wrote again : 

January 30th, 1821 
My employment, you are aware, is still very fluctuating, 
but this I trust will improve. I am advancing, I think, 
though leisurely, and at least I feel no insuperable doubts 
of getting honest bread, which is all I want. For as to 
fame and all that, I see it already to be nothing better 
than a meteor, a will-o'-the-wisp which leads one on 
through quagmires and pitfalls to catch an object which, 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 89 

when we have caught it, turns out to be nothing. I am 
happy to think in the meantime that you do not feel 
uneasy about my future destiny. Providence, as you 
observe, will order it better or worse, and with His award, 
so nothing mean or wicked lie before me, I shall study to 
rest satisfied. 

It is a striking thing, and alarming to those who are at 
ease in the world, to think how many living things that 
had breath and hope within them when I left Ecclefechan 
are now numbered with the clods of the valley! Surely 
there is something obstinately stupid in the heart of man, 
or the flight of three-score years, and the poor joys or 
poorer cares of this our pilgrimage would never move as 
they do. Why do we fret and murmur, and toil, and con- 
sume ourselves for objects so transient and frail? Is it 
that the soul, living here as her prison-house, strives after 
something boundless like herself, and finding it nowhere, 
still renews the search? Surely we are fearfully and 
wonderfully made. But I must not pursue these specu- 
lations, though they force themselves upon us sometimes 
even without our asking. 

This gloomy period of Carlyle's life was happily 
drawing to a close, and brighter days were dawn- 
ing. From the dear mother in the little farmhouse 
came encouraging words: 

Mainhill: March 21st, 1821 
Son Tom: 

I received your kind and pleasant letter. Nothing is 

more satisfying to me than to hear of your welfare. Keep 

up your heart, my brave boy. You ask kindly after my 



9c MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

health. I complain as little as possible. When the day 
is cheerier it has great effect on me. But on the whole 
I am as well as I can expect, thank God. I have sent t* 
little butter and a few cakes with a box to bring home 
your clothes. Send them all home that I may wash and 
sort them once more. Oh, man could I but write! I'll 
tell ye a' when we meet, but I must in the meantime 
content myself. Do send me a long letter; it revives me 
greatly; and tell me honestly if you read your chapter 
e'en and morn, lad. You mind I hod if not your hand, I 
hod your foot of it. 

Tell me if there is anything you want in particular. I 
must run to pack the box, so I am 

Your affectionate mother 

Margaret Carlyle 

It was during the year 1821 that Carlyle finally 
emerged from the conflict with doubt, and dated 
the time of his "spiritual new birth." From that 
period he states that he "began to be a. new man." 
An intimate friend, Edward Irving, was through- 
out this season of unbelief a faithful counselor and 
confidant. Of his friendship, Carlyle writes : 
"Such friend as I never had again or before in this 
world, at heart constant till he died." 

It is needless to say that his mother's heart re- 
joiced greatly in her son's change of attitude toward 
things spiritual ; and his decision was a source of 
profound satisfaction to her. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 91 

Carlyle's literary productions were now receiving 
more recognition than formerly, and his financial 
condition accordingly was much improved. With 
this to encourage him, he spent more freely of his 
income in sending gifts to the father and mother, 
who had been ever thoughtful of his temporal wel- 
fare when his meager income scarcely afforded a 
living. On one occasion he sent to his father a pair 
of spectacles, and to his mother "a little sovereign 
to keep the fiend out of hussif." In an accom- 
panying note, he wrote his mother: 

You will tell me I am poor and have so few of these 
coins ; but I am going to have plenty by-and-by ; and if 
I had but one I cannot see how I could purchase more 
enjoyment with it than if I shared it with you. Be not in 
want of anything, I entreat you, that I can possibly get for 
you. It would be hard indeed if in the autumn of life — 
the spring and summer of which you have spent well in 
taking care of us — we should know what would add to 
your frugal enjoyments and not procure it. 

The stockings and other things you sent me are of 
additional value in my eyes, as proofs of the unwearied 
care with which you continue to watch over me. I still 
hope to see the day when I may acknowledge all this 
more effectually. I think you wanted a bonnet when I 
was at home. Do not buy any until after the box returns. 

Through his friend, Edward Irving, Carlyle in 
1822 was offered a position of tutor to the two sons 



92 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Buller, of London (Mr. 
Buller being a retired English gentleman of 
eminence). 

The salary was to 'be two hundred pounds a year, 
which, in spite of a dislike for "schoolmastering," 
could not be disregarded, as times were hard and 
money difficult to obtain. 

In writing to his mother at this time, Carlyle 
says, with reference to his new position and the 
mistress of the house: 

"The woman, Irving says, is a gallant, accomplished 
person, and will respect one well. He warned her that I 
had seen little of life, and was disposed to be rather high 
in the humor if not well used. The plan, if I like it and 
be fit for it, will be advantageous for me in many respects. 
I shall have time for study and convenience for it and 
plenty of cash. 

At the same time, as it is uncertain, I do not make it 
my lower anchor by any means. If it go to nothing alto- 
gether, I shall snap my finger and thumb in the face of 
all the Indian judges of the earth, and return to my poor 
desk and quill with as hard a heart as ever. 

A later letter gives glimpses of his daily life, 
showing him to be pleased with the position, yet 
uncertain as to keeping it for any length of time: 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 93 

3 Moray Street: 

Edinburgh, June 2, 1822 

It will give you pleasure to know that I continue im- 
proving in that most important of qualities, good health. 
The bathing does me great good, and you need be under 
no apprehension of my drowning. Unfortunately my mode 
of sleeping is too irregular to admit of my bathing con- 
stantly before breakfast. Small noises disturb me and 
keep me awake, though I always get to sleep at last, and 
happily such disturbances occur but rarely. 

Some two weeks ago I had a little adventure with an 
ugly messan, which a crazy half-pay captain had thought 
proper to chain in his garden, or rather, grass-plot, about 
twenty yards from my window. The pug felt unhappy in 
its new situation, began repining very pitifully in its own 
way; at one time snarling, grinning, yelping, as if it cared 
not whether it were hanged then or tomorrow ; at another, 
whining, howling, screaming, as if it meant to excite the 
compassion of the world at large — this at intervals for 
the whole night. 

By five o'clock in the morning, I would have given a 
guinea of gold for its hind legs firm in my right hand 
by the side of a stone wall. 

Next day the crazy captain removed it, being threatened 
by the street at large with prosecution if he did not. But 
on the evening of the second day, being tired of keeping 
the cur in his kitchen, he again let it out, and just as I 
was falling asleep about one o'clock, the same musical, 
"most musical, most melancholy" serenade aroused me 
from my vague dreamings. 



94 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

I listened about half an hour, then rose indignantly, put 
on my clothes, went out, and charged the watchman to 
put an instant stop to the accursed thing. The watchman 
could not for the world interfere with a gentleman's rest 
at that hour, but next morning he would certainly, etc. etc. 

I asked to be shown the door, and pulling the crazy 
captain's bell about six times, his servant at length awoke 
and inquired with a tremulous voice, what was it? I 
alluded to the dog and demanded the instant, the total, 
the everlasting removal of it, or tomorrow I would see 
whether justice was in Edinburgh, or the shadow of British 
law in force. "Do you hear that?" said the Irish knight 
of the rattle and lantern. She heard it and obeyed, and 
no wretched messan has since disturbed my slumbers. 

You ask about my home-coming; but this must be a 
very uncertain story for awhile. I cannot count on any 
such thing till the Buller people are arrived, and in the 
event of my farther engaging with them, my period of 
absence must of course be short. However, there is good 
and cheap conveyance to Dumfries daily, and it shall go 
hard if I do not steal a week or so to spend at home. It 
is the dearest blessing of my life that I have you to write 
to and care for me. 

I am in very fair health considering everything; about 
a hundred times as well as I was last year, and as happy 
as you ever saw me. In fact, I want nothing but steady 
health of body (which I shall get in time) to be one of 
the comfortablest persons of my acquaintance. 

I have also books to write and things to say and do in 
this world which few wot of. This has the air of vanity, 
but it is not altogether so. I consider that my Almighty 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 95 

Author has given me some glimmerings of superior under- 
standing and mental gifts ; and I should reckon it the 
worst treason against Him to neglect improving and 
using to the very utmost of my power these His bountiful 
mercies. At some future day it shall go hard, but I will 
stand above these mean men whom I have never yet stood 
with. 

But we need not prate of this. I am very much satisfied 
with my teaching. In fact, it is a pleasure instead of a 
task. The Bullers are quite another sort of boys than I 
have been used to, and treat me in another sort of manner 
than tutors are used to. When I think of General Dixon's 
brats, and how they used to vex me, I often wonder I 
had not broken their backs at once, and left them. This 
would not have done, to be sure; but the temptation was 
considerable. The elder Buller is one of the cleverest 
boys I have ever seen. He delights to enquire and argue 
and be demolished. Ke follows me almost nigh home 
every night. Very likely I may bargain finally with the 
people, but I have no certain intimation on the subject; 
and in fact, I do not care immensely whether or not. 
There is bread for the diligent to be gained in a thousand 
ways. 

It was finally decided that Carlyle should con- 
tinue as tutor in the Buller family, and writing to 
his mother he said: 

Tea I now consume with urns and china and splendid 
apparatus all around me, yet I often turn from these 
grandeurs to the little "down the house" at Mainhill, where 
kind affection makes amends for all deficiencies. 



96 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Often there, my dear mother, in coming years, we shall 
yet drink tea there, enjoy our pipes and friendly chat 
together, and pity all the empty gorgeousness of the earth. 

In October, after a brief visit to Mainhill from 
the loved Thomas, his mother received the follow- 
ing letter, showing that her anxiety as to his spirit- 
ual state had again been aroused: 

Edinburgh, November 14th, 1822 
You have not sent me a line since I went away. I am 
not surprised at this, knowing how you are circumstanced, 
but it keeps me very much in the dark with regard to 
your situation. I can only hope you are in your usual 
state of health and spirits, fighting as formerly against 
the inconveniences of your present life, and brightening 
all its dreariness by the hopes of a better. There is nothing 
else that can keep the happiest of us in a state of peace, 
worth calling by the name of peace ; and "with this anchor 
of the soul both sure and steadfast" the unhappiest man 
alive is to be envied. You think I am a very thoughtless 
character, careless of eternity, and taken up with vain 
concerns of time alone. Depend on it, my dear mother, 
you misjudge me. These thoughts are rooted in every 
reflecting mind, in mine perhaps more deeply than. in many 
that make more noise about them; and of all the qualities 
that I love in you, there is none I so much love as that 
feeling of devotion which elevates you as much above the 
meanness of ordinary persons in your situation which 
gives to the humble circumstances of your lot a dignity 
unborrowed of earthly grandeur as well as far superior to 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 97 

the highest state of it; and which ornaments a mind un- 
trained in worldly education and accomplishments with 
sentiments after which mere literature and philosophy 
with all their pretensions would forever strive in vain. 
The dress of our opinions, as I have often told you, may 
be different, because our modes of life have been different, 
but fundamentally our sentiments are completely the same. 
We should tolerate each other, therefore, in this world, 
where all is weak and obscure, trusting meanwhile that 
we shall comprehend all things more perfectly in that 
clearer land where faith is changed into vision; where 
the dim though fervent longings of our minds from this 
dark prison-house are changed for a richness of actual 
grandeur beyond what the most ardent imagination has 
ventured to conceive. 

Long may these hopes be yours, my dearest mother. 
Whoever entertains them is richer than kings. 

The Bullers are gone to college a few days ago, and I 
do not go near them till two o'clock in the afternoon. By 
this means I do not only secure a competent space of time 
for my own studies, but find also that my stomach troubles 
me a good deal less after breakfast than it used to do 
when I had a long hurried walk to take before it. 

My duties are of an easy and brief sort. I dine at half- 
past three with a small and very civil youth, little 
Reginald, contracted into Reggy, and I have generally 
done with the whole against six. I find Jack immersed 
in study when I return. He cooks the tea for us, and we 
afterwards devote ourselves to business till between eleven 
and twelve. 



98 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

My brotherly love to all the younkers about home, to 
each by name. Why do they never write? Will you not 
write ? 

I am, ever affectionately your son — thy son! 

T. Cari^yle 

On December 4, he wrote: 

It is already past twelve o'clock, and I am tired and 
sleepy, but I cannot go to rest without answering the kind 
little note which you sent me, and acknowledging these 
new instances of your unwearied attention to my interests 
and comfort. I am almost vexed at these shirts and stock- 
ings. My dear mother, why will you expend on super- 
fluities the pittance I intended for very different ends? I 
again assure you, and would swear to it if needful, that 
you cannot get me such enjoyment with it in any way as 
by convincing me that it is adding to your own. Do not 
therefore frustrate my purposes. I send you a small 
screed of verses which I made some time ago. I fear you 
will not care a droit for them, though the subject is good 
— the deliverance of Switzerland from tyranny by the 
hardy mountaineers at the battle of Morgarten above five 
hundred years ago. 

This is my birthday. I am now seven-and-twenty years 
of age. What an unprofitable lout I am! What have I 
done in this world to make my good place in it, or reward 
those that had the trouble of my upbringing? Great part 
of an ordinary life-time is gone by, and here am I, poor 
trifler, still sojourning in Mesech, still doing nothing in 
the tents of Kedar. May the great Father of all give me 
strength, to do better in time remaining, to be of service 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 99 

in the good cause in my day and generation; and having 
finished the work which was given me to do, to lie down 
and sleep in peace and purity in the hope of a happy rising. 

The first of January brought to Carlyle a letter 
from his father, including the following greeting 
from his mother: 

Your mother wishes you a happy new year, and she 
wishes it may be the best you ever have seen, and the 
worst you ever may see. 

Her eldest son was still, as always, uppermost in 
her mind, and he in return, never failed to regard 
her first; and was constantly thinking of ways to 
satisfy her needs and desires. Although she might 
write back, "Dear bairn, I want for nothing,'' he 
would quickly reply "she must understand that she 
could not gratify him so much as by enabling him 
to promote her comfort." 

Life [he wrote] is still in prospect to Jack [a brother] 
and me. We are not yet what we hope to be. Jack is 
going to become a large gawsie broad-faced practiser of 
physic, to ride his horse in time, to give aloes by the rule, 
to make money and to be a large man; while I, in spite of 
all my dyspepsias and nervousness and hypochondrias, am 
still bent on being a very meritorious sort of character, 
rather noted in the world of letters, if it so please Provi- 
dence, and useful, I hope, whithersoever I go in the good 
old cause, for which I beg you to believe that I cordially 



ioo MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

agree with you in feeling my chief interest, however we 
may differ in our modes of expressing it 

In the spring of 1823, the Bullers having re- 
moved to Kinnaird House, a handsome residence 
in Perthshire, Carlyle wrote as follows to his 
mother : 

This letter may operate as a spur on the diligence of 
my beloved and valuable correspondents at Mainhill. 
There is a small blank made in the sheet for a purpose 
which you will notice. I beg you to accept the little picture 
which fills it without any murmuring. It is a poor testi- 
monial of the grateful love I should ever bear you. I 
hope to get a moderate command of money in the course 
of my life's operations. I long for it chiefly that I may 
testify to those dear to me what affection I entertain for 
them. In the meantime we ought to be thankful that we 
have never known what it was to be in fear of want, but 
have always had wherewith to gratify one another by 
these little acts of kindness, which are worth more than 
millions unblest by a true feeling between the giver and 
receiver. You must buy yourself any little odd things 
you want, and think I enjoy it along with you, if it add 
to your comfort. I do indeed enjoy it along with you. I 
should be a dog if I did not. I am grateful to you for 
kindness and true affection such as no other heart will 
ever feel for me. I am proud of my mother, though she 
is neither rich nor learned. If I ever forget to love and 
reverence her, I must cease to be a creature myself worth 
remembering. Often, my dear mother, in solitary, pensive 
moments does it come across me like the cold shadow of 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 101 

death that we two must part in the course of time. I 
shudder at the thought, and find no refuge except in 
humbly trusting that the great God will surely appoint us 
a meeting in that far country to which we are tending. 
May He bless you forever, my good mother, and keep 
up in your heart those sublime hopes which at present 
serve as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by 
night to guide your footsteps through the wilderness of 
life. We are in His hands. He will not utterly forsake 
us. Let us trust in Him. 

To John Carlyle, a few days later, he wrote: 

Tell our mother I have a fire every night, and that all 
things I want are supplied me abundantly. 

To the mother, ever solicitous about his health, 
did Carlyle write freely and fully, not only con- 
cerning health, but regarding- all personal matters, 
including his hopes and aspirations; at the same 
time apologizing to his father for constantly com- 
plaining of ill health: 

To the latter he said: 

I often grieve for the uneasiness my complaining costs 
you and my dear mother, who is of feebler texture in 
that respect than you. By this time she must be beginning 
to understand me; to know that when I shout "murder" 
I am not always being killed. The truth is, complaint is 
the natural source of uneasiness, and I have none that 
I care to complain to but you. After all I am not so 
miserable as you would think. My health is better than 



102 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

it was last year, but I have lost all patience with it; and 
whenever any retrograde movement comes in view, I get 
quite desperate in the matter, being determined that I 
must get well — cost what it will. On days when moder- 
ately well I feel as happy as others; happier perhaps, for 
sweet is pleasure after pain. 

Carlyle was now rapidly advancing in the liter- 
ary world. He had read enormously in a wide 
range of English, German, and French literature; 
and was well fitted to put his knowledge to valuable 
use. His "Life of Schiller" had been completed, 
and his translation of "Wilhelm Meister," which 
had been published, had brought him into favorable 
notice. 

He was at this time in London, with the Bullers, 
and the family at Mainhill was deeply absorbed in 
his first book. His translation of Goethe's novel 
did not fail to meet with appreciation in this simple 
Calvinistic home, which made no pretensions to lit- 
erary criticism. Young and old alike read it, and 
rejoiced in the achievement of the scholar of the 
family — the mother, perhaps, giving it more time 
and thought, her heart thrilling as she realized in 
a measure the fulfillment of her long-cherished 
hopes. 

A letter from his brother John is of especial 
interest : 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 103 

Mainhill: June 24 
You did well to send our father the neckerchief and 
tobacco with the spluchian, for he was highly pleased at 
the sight of them. The shawl our mother says, suits very 
well, though she has no particular need of one at present. 
She bids me tell you she can never repay you for the 
kindness you have all along shown her, and that she has 
advices about religion to give you, the best of gifts in her 
estimation that she has to offer. She is sitting here as if 
under some charm, reading "Meister," and has nearly got 
through the second volume. Though we are often re- 
peating Hall Foster's denouncement against readers of 
"novels," she still continues to persevere. She does not 
relish the character of the women, and especially of 
Philnia : "They are so wanton." She can not well tell 
what it is that interests her. I defer till the next time I 
write you to give you a full account of the impression it 
has made upon us all, for we have not got it fairly studied 
yet. We are unanimous in thinking it should succeed. 

To his mother, Carlyle wrote briefly: 

"Meister," I understand, is doing very well. Jack tells 
me you are reading "Meister." This surprises me. If I 
did not recollect your love for me, I should not be able to 
account for it. 

And well might the much-loved son say to his 
devoted mother "that her love was such as no other 
heart would ever feel for him." 

In after years, when all England was praising 
Carlyle, and his fame had extended beyond the 



io4 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

seas, no days were quite so precious in memory as 
those days when he and his mother rode together 
over the barren moors of old Scotland, smoking 
their pipes, while she told him she had read through 
"Wilhelm Meister," and the "French Revolution/' 
and that if the depths of their meaning did not 
quite come within the bounds of her understand- 
ing, they were, nevertheless, grand books because 
"her Tom" wrote them. For Carlyle this loyal de- 
votion was "the one eternal spring in a life that had 
much of Sahara in it!" 

The connection with the Buller family was at 
length severed, and Carlyle rejoiced in the free- 
dom, which gave more time for literary pursuits, 
in which he was now deeply engrossed. 

Mrs. Carlyle's health, with advancing years, had 
become impaired, and she in turn now received 
admonitions for her own welfare ; most tenderly 
and affectionately did Thomas write: 

Birmingham : August 29, 1824 
I must suggest some improvements in your diet and 
mode of life which might be of service to you, who I know 
too well have much to suffer on your own part, though 
your affection renders you so exclusively anxious about 
me. You will say that you cannot be fashed. Oh, my 
mother, if you did but think of what value your health 
and comfort are to us all, you would never talk so. Are 
we not all bound to you by sacred and indissoluble ties? 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 105 

Am I not so bound more than any other? Who was it 
that nursed me and watched me in frowardness and sick- 
ness from the earliest dawn of my existence to this hour? 
My mother. Who is it that has struggled for me in pain 
and sorrow with undespairing diligence, that has for me 
been up early and down late, caring for me, laboring for 
me, unweariedly assisting me? My mother. Who is the 
one that never shrunk from me in my desolation, that 
never tired of my despondencies, or shut up by a look or 
tone of impatience, the expression of my real or imaginary 
griefs? Who is that loves me and will love me forever 
with an affection which no chance, no misery, no crime of 
mine can do away? It is you, my mother. 

When, in the fall of 1824, Carlyle unexpectedly 
went for a short visit to Paris, the entire house- 
hold was under severe restraint until a letter came 
announcing his safe arrival. Nobody thought of 
laughing or singing, and any sign of cheerfulness 
was reproached by the mother as "lightness of 
heart." At the close of the year, when he had re- 
turned to London, he received the following letter: 

Mainhill: December 18, 1824 
Dear Son: 

I take this opportunity to thank you for your unvarying 

kindness, though I fear it will hardly be read. But never 

mind: I know to whom I am writing. It is a long time 

since we had a sight of each other ; nevertheless I am 

often with you in thought, and I hope we shall meet at a 

throne of grace where there is access to all who come in 



io6 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

faith. Tell me if thou readest a chapter often. If not, 
begin ; oh, do begin ! 

How do you spend the Sabbath in that tumultuous city? 
Oh ! remember to keep it holy ; this you will never repent. 
I think you will be saying, "Hold, mother !" but time is 
short and uncertain. Now, Tom, the best of boys thou 
art to me! Do not think I am melancholy, though I so 
speak. I am quite well, and happy too when I hear from 
London and Edinburgh. And pray do not let me want 
food: as your father says, I look as if I would eat your 
letters. Write everything and soon — I look for one every 
fortnight till we meet. I grudge taking up the sheet, so I 
bid thee good-night, and remain 

Your affectionate mother 

Margaret Carcyi,^ 
P. S. (By Alexander Carlyle.) 

You are very wise, we seriously think, in determining 
to live in the country, but how or where I do not pretend 
to say; perhaps in some cottage, with a grass-park or cow 
attached to it for the nonce, and our mother or Mag for 
housekeeper. Or what say you of farming (marrying, I 
dare not speak to you about it at all) ? There are plenty 
of farms to let on all sides of the country. But tell me, 
are the warm hearts of Mainhill changed? Or are they 
less anxious to please? I guess not. Yet, after all, I 
do often think that you would be as comfortable here as 
anywhere. 

Although not known to his family, matrimony 
was, at this time, uppermost in Carlyle's mind. His 
determination to make his home in the country, did 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 107 

not, however, meet with approval by his fiancee, 
the beautiful and cultured Jane Welsh. A farm 
house, Hoddam Hill, two miles from Mainhill, was 
nevertheless, secured, and the brothers at once pro- 
ceeded to put in the crop, while the mother and 
sisters made ready the dwelling. Mrs. Carlyle and 
two of the little ones were to remain while Miss 
Welsh came down for a visit. 
Of this visit, Carlyle writes : 

She stayed with us above a week, happy as was very 
evident, and making happy. Her demeanor among us I 
could define as unsurpassable, spontaneously perfect. 
From the first moment all embarrassment, even my 
mother's as tremulous and anxious as she naturally was, 
fled away without return .... On the whole she came 
to know us all, saw face to face us and the rugged peasant 
element and the way of life we had; and was not afraid 
of it, but recognized like her noble self, what of intrinsic 
worth it might have, and what of real human dignity. 

For a long while the mother of Jane Welsh re- 
mained a decided barrier to the marriage, as on 
account of Carlyle's moody and imperious tempera- 
ment, she feared for the future happiness of her 
daughter, who also possessed a decided will of her 
own. And friends of the Welsh family, who moved 
in an entirely different circle from that of the Car- 
lyles, looked upon the match as a decided 
mesalliance. 



108 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Mrs. Carlyle kept her opinion quietly to herself, 
though her attitude toward the young couple was 
plainly shown in a letter from her son to Jane 
Welsh: 

My mother's prayers (to speak with all seriousness) are, 
I do believe, not wanting either to you or to me, and if 
the sincere wishes of a true soul can have any virtue, we 
shall not want a blessing. She bids me send you the 
kindest message I can contrive, which I send by itself 
without contrivance. She says she will have one good 
greet when we set off, and then be at peace. 

The marriage took place on October 17, 1826, 
and for a time Carlyle was happier than he had 
ever been, though ill-health and its accompanying 
moods were still his frequent condition, and the 
wife, patient and gentle, found him, as his mother 
had long since described him, "ill to live with," 

A difference with the landlord had caused the 
stay at Hoddam Hill to come to an end ; while the 
lease at Mainhill, expiring about the same time, 
the family moved to Scotsbrig, a farm near 
Ecclefechan, and here the father and mother spent 
the remainder of their lives. 

After their arrival at Comely Bank, Carlyle 
wrote his mother: 

I am still dreadfully confused, I am still far from being 
at home in my new situation, but I have reason to say 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 109 

that I have been mercifully dealt with ; and if an outward 
man worn with continual harassments and spirits wasted 
with so many agitations would let me see it, that I may 
fairly calculate on being far happier than I have ever 
been. The house is a perfect model furnished with every 
accommodation that heart could desire; and for my wife, 
I may say in my heart that she is far better than any wife 
and loves me with a devotedness which it is a mystery to 
me how I have ever deserved. She is gay and happy as 
a lark, and looks with such soft cheerfulness into my 
gloomy countenance, that new hope passed into me every 
time I met her eye. In truth, I was very sullen yesterday, 
sick with sleeplessness, nervous, bilious, splenetic, and all 
the rest of it." 

Carlyle had permitted himself to complain much 
in early life, and in maturer years the habit was 
too fast upon him to be easily gotten rid of. But 
to fret before a mother is one thing, and before a 
wife, quite another; and though the Carlyles were 
in a measure happy, their happiness was greatly 
marred by uncongeniality of temperament. 

In a letter to his brother John, he said: 

I am all in a maze scarcely knowing the right hand from 
the left in the path I have to walk .... Tell my mother, 
however, that I do believe I shall get hefted to my new 
situation, and then be one of the happiest men alive. Tell 
her also that by Jane's express request I am to read a 
sermon and a chapter with a commentary at least every 
Sabbath day, to my household; also that we are taking 



no MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

seats in church, and design to live soberly and devoutly 
as beseems us. 

And again to his mother: 

Comely Bank: January 2, 1827 
My Dear Mother : 

At length Tait (the publisher) has given me an oppor- 
tunity of sending off the weary book, and along with it a 
word or two to assure you of my welfare. The "German 
Romance" I have inscribed to my father, though I know 
he will not read a line of it. From you, however, I hope 
better things ; at any rate, I have sent you a book which 
I am sure you will read, because it relates to a really good 
man, and one engaged in a life which all men must reckon 
good. You must accept this "Life of Henry Martyn" as 
a New Year's gift from me; and while reading it believe 
that your son is a kind of a missionary in his way — not 
to the heathen of India, but to the British heathen, an 
innumerable class whom he would gladly do something 
to convert if his perplexities and manifold infirmities 
would give him leave .... We must wait patiently and 
study to do what service we can, not despising the day of 
small things, but meekly trusting that hereafter it may be 
the day of greater. I am beginning to be very instant for 
some sort of occupation, which indeed, is my chief want 
at present. I must stir the waters and see what is to be 
done. Many, many plans I have, but few of them, I doubt, 
are likely to prove acceptable at present ; the times are so 
bad, and bookselling trade so dull. Something, however, 
I will fix upon, for work is as essential to me as meat and 
drink. Of money we are not in want. The other morn- 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN in 

ing Mrs. Welsh sent us a letter with sixty pounds en- 
closed, fearing lest cleanness of teeth might be ready to 
overtake us. I thought it extremely kind and handsome; 
but we returned the cash with many thanks, wishing to 
fight our own battles at least until the season of need 
arrive. I have not said a word yet about your kind Scots- 
brig package. It was all right and in order, only that a 
few of the eggs (the box not being completely stuffed 
firm), had suffered by the carriage. Most part of them 
Jane has already converted into custards, pancakes, or the 
other like ware; the other I am eating and find excellent. 
A woman comes here weekly with a fresh stock to us, and 
I eat just one daily, the price being I5d. per dozen. 

Now, my dear mother, you must make Alick write to 
me, and tell me all that is going on with himself or you. 
Wish all hands a happy new year in my name, and assure 
them all, one by one, that I will love them truly all my 
days. 

There came, also, at this time, an appreciative 
letter from Jane Carlyle, in gratitude to Mrs. 
Carlyle for her many acts of kindness in providing 
for their temporal needs from her own limited 
store. 

During the summer of 1827, Carlyle sent to 
Goethe a copy of his "Life of Schiller," and also 
the "German Romance." 

In a short while, grateful acknowledgment was 
received, and Carlyle wrote joyfully to his mother: 



ii2 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Comely Bank: August 18 
News came directly after breakfast that a package from 
Goethe had arrived in Leith. Without delay I proceeded 
thither, and found a little box carefully overlapped in wax 
cloth, and directed to me. After infinite wranglings and 
perplexed misdirected higglings, I succeeded in rescuing 
the precious packet from the fangs of the Custom-house 
sharks, and in the afternoon it was safely deposited in our 
little parlor — in the daintiest boxie you ever saw — so care- 
fully packed, so neatly and tastefully contrived was every- 
thing. There was a copy of Goethe's poems in five beau- 
tiful little volumes for "the valued marriage pair Car- 
lyle"; two other little books for myself, then two medals, 
one of Goethe himself, and another of his father and 
mother; and lastly, the prettiest wrought-iron necklace 
with a little figure of the poet's face set in gold for my 
dear spouse, and a most dashing pocketbook for me. In 
the box containing the necklace, and in each pocket of the 
pocket-book were cards, each with a verse of poetry on 
it in the old master's own hand. 

All these I will translate to you by-and-by as well as the 
long letter which lay at the bottom of all — one of the 
kindest and gravest epistles I ever read. He praises me 
for the "Life of Schiller" and the others; asks me to send 
him some account of my own previous history, etc. In 
short, it was all extremely graceful, affectionate, and 
patriarchal. You may conceive how much it pleased us. 
I believe a ribbon with the Order of the Garter would 
scarcely have flattered either of us more. 

Mrs. Carlyle was indeed thrilled with joy at this 
recognition of her son's literary gifts, but deemed 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 113 

it nothing more than just that he should be held 
among Britain's greatest writers. She had always 
believed in him, and expected him to make a name 
for himself, and never doubted that he would come 
up to her expectations. 

From time to time, visits were exchanged by the 
families at Scotsbrig and Comely Bank, for as Car- 
lyle had said, they were "a clannish set." 

After a visit from his mother, he wrote to one of 
his brothers, as follows : 

My mother stayed about four weeks, then went home by 
Hawick, pausing a few days there. She was in her usual 
health, wondered much at Edinburgh, but did not seem to 
relish it excessively. I had her at the pier of Leith and 
showed her where your ship vanished, and she looked over 
the blue waters eastward with wettish eyes, and asked the 
dumb waters "when he would be back again." Good 
mother ! but the time of her departure came on, and she 
left us stupefied by the magnitude of such an enterprise 
as riding over eighty miles in the Sir Walter Scott with- 
out jumping out of the window, which I told her was the 
problem. Dear mother! let us thank God that she is still 
here in earth spared for us, and I hope to see good. I 
would not exchange her for any ten mothers I have ever 
seen. 

In the late spring of the year 1828, Thomas Car- 
lyle and his wife went to live at Craigenputtock, 



ii 4 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

where amid the cheerless moors of Dumfriesshire 
they were for the next seven years to lead a lonely 
existence. 

Two years later came the first break in the 
family, in the death of the much beloved eldest 
daughter, Margaret. Of her last moments, Carlyle 
wrote to an absent brother: 

Our mother asked her in the afternoon if she thought 
herself dying. She answered "I dinna ken, mother, but I 
never was so sick in my life." 

To a subsequent question about her hopes of a future 
world she replied briefly, but in terms that were com- 
fortable to her parents .... Our mother begged her 
forgiveness if she had ever done her anything wrong; to 
which the dying one answered, "Oh, no, no, mother, never, 
never," earnestly, yet quietly, and without tears, .... 
Our mother behaved in what I must call an heroic man- 
ner. Seeing that the hour was now come, she cast her- 
self and her child on God's hand, and endeavored heartily 
to say, "His will be done." Since then she has been calmer 
than any of us could have hoped — almost the calmest of 
us. 

Several of her children were now living away 
from home, and Mrs. Carlyle could not conceal the 
anxiety that she felt for the welfare of the absent 
ones. One of the sisters wrote to Carlyle at this 
time: 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 115 

Our mother has been healthier than usual this winter, 
but terribly hadden down in anxiety. She told me the 
other day the first gaet she gaed every morning was to 
London, then to Italy, then to Craigenputtock, and then 
to Mary's, and finally began to think them at home were 
maybe no safer, no safer than the rest. When I asked 
what she wished to say to you, she said she had a thou- 
sand things to say if she had you here ; "and thou may 
tell them, I am very little fra' them." You are to pray 
for us all daily, while separated from one another, that 
our ways be in God's keeping. 

You are also to tell the doctor (John) when you write, 
with her love, that he is to read his Bible carefully, and 
not to forget that God sees him in whatsoever land he 
may be. 

In January, 1832, there came a letter from his 
sister Jean, bringing the news of his father's 
death, after a brief illness. The mother added but 
a single line to the daughter's words : 

It is God that has done it ; be still my dear children. 

Your affectionate Mother. 

Unable to attend the funeral, Carlyle composed 
the memoir which appears in his "Reminiscences." 
As the eldest son, he now felt the responsibility 
which rested upon him as the head of the family. 

To his mother he wrote : 



n6 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

London: January 26, 1832 
My Dear Mother: 

I was downstairs this morning when I heard the post- 
man's knock, and thought it might be a letter from Scots- 
brig. Hastening up I found Jane with the letter open and 
in tears. The next moment gave me the stern tidings. I 
had written you yesterday a light, hopeful letter which I 
could now wish you might not read in these days of dark- 
ness. Probably you will receive it just along with this; 
the first red seal so soon to be exchanged for a black one. 
As yet I am in no condition to write much. The stroke all 
unexpected though not undreaded, as yet painfully crushes 
my heart altogether. I have yet hardly a little relief from 
tears. And yet it will be a solace to me to speak out with 
you, to repeat along with you that great saying which, 
could we rightly lay it to heart, includes all that man 
can say, "It is God that has done it." God supports us 
all. .Yes my dear mother, it is God has done it; and our 
part is reverent submission to His will, and truthful 
prayers to Him for strength to bear us through every 
trial .... Neither are you my beloved mother, to let 
your heart be heavy. Faithfully you toiled by his side 
.... And now, do you pray for us all, and let us all pray 
in such language as we have for one another, so shall this 
sore division and parting be the means of closer union. 
Let us and every one know that, though this world is full 
of briers, and we are wounded at every step as we go, 
and one by one must take farewell and weep bitterly, yet 
"there remaineth a rest for the people of God." Yes, for 
the people of God there remaineth a rest, that rest which 
in the world they could nowhere find. And now again I 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 117 

say, do not grieve any one of you beyond what nature 
forces and you can not help. Pray to God, if any of you 
have a voice and uterance; all of you pray always, in 
secret and silence — if faithful, ye shall be heard openly. I 
cannot be with you to speak, but read in the Scriptures as 
I would have done. Read, I especially ask, in Matthew's 
gospel, that passion, and death, and farewell blessing and 
command of Jesus of Nazareth ; and see if you can under- 
stand and feel what is the "divine depth of sorrow," and 
how even by suffering and sin man is lifted up to God, 
and in great darkness there shines a light. If you cannot 
read it aloud in common, then do each of you take his 
Bible in private and read it for himself. Our business is 
not to lament, but to improve the lamentable, and make 
it also peaceably work together for greater good. 

Much more did he write, in an affectionate and 
tender manner, giving the same comfort that his 
mother in turn would have given him; and reflect- 
ing in his words, her teachings. 

The memoir of his father referred to his many 
virtues. Very noteworthy are two characteristics 
mentioned — "he never spoke of what was disagree- 
able and past," and "his placid indifference to the 
clamors or the murmurs of public opinion." "I 
have a sacred pride," said Carlyle, "in my peasant 
father, and would not exchange him now for any 
king known to me." 



n8 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

To Mrs. Carlyle there continued to come long 
affectionate letters from her son, Thomas. He 
was struggling on in his literary efforts, with 
ofttimes scarce a pound to his credit. A few of 
his books and essays met with appreciation from 
the public, but some books, afterwards to rank 
among the world's best literature, were returned 
to him by the publishers with a polite refusal to 
publish. "Sartor Resartus" came under this head, 
and his disappointment was keen. To his mother 
he wrote : 

Little money I think will be had for my work, but I will 
have it printed if there be a man in London that will do 
it, even without payment to myself. If there be no such 
man, why then, what is to be done but tie a piece of good 
skeenyie about my papers, stick the whole in my pocket 
and march home again with it ; where at least potatoes 
and onions are to be had, and I can wait till better times. 
. . . . The Giver of all Good has enabled me to write the 
thing, and also to do without any pay for it: the pay 
would have been wasted away and flitted out of the bit 
as other pay does ; but if there stands any truth recorded 
there, it will not flit. 

And he was right — how many thousands have 
read "Sartor Resartus" since that day, and the 
truth recorded there, it "will not flit." 

In 1833, the young writer, Emerson, came across 
the Atlantic, and visited Carlyle for a brief time 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 119 

in the moorland home. To his mother, Carlyle 
wrote that the young man "seemed to be one of 
the most lovable creatures in himself we had ever 
looked on. He stayed till next day with us, and 
talked and heard talk to his heart's content." 

Mrs. Carlyle's strong faith in God and in the 
wisdom of His ways, was exemplified at the time 
Carlyle had decided to commence writing "The 
French Revolution," and had been bitterly disap- 
pointed in failing to secure a professorship that 
would have given him ample means with which to 
go later to Paris for study and research. The 
Lord-Advocate Jeffrey had ignored a hint that he 
would like the professorship ; and Carlyle could not 
repress his bitter disappointment. "He canna 
hinder thee of God's providence," said his mother; 
which Carlyle agreed, later on, "was a glorious 
truth." 

To his brother John, he expressed his deter- 
mination to find success in London, and if not there, 
to go to America : 

I must work and seek work; before . sinking utterly I 

will make an a-fir struggle Our dear mother has 

not heard of this. It will be a heavy stroke, yet not quite 
unanticipated, and she will brave it. Go whither she may, 
she will have her Bible with her, and her faith in God. 



120 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

She is the truest Christian believer I have ever met with; 
nay, I might almost say, the only one. 

She came to visit Thomas and his wife just 
before they departed to take up their residence in 
London, and he says, "she shed no tears, but I 
felt it so sore as I have felt nothing of the sort 
since boyhood." 

In December, there came to him the following 
cheering lines: 

December 15th, 1835 
Dear Son: 

I need not say how glad I was to see your hand once 
more. It had been lying at the postoffice for some time, I 
think, for I had got the Annan ones the day before, which 
I think must have been sent later than it. They were all 
thrice welcome. 

I am glad to hear you are getting on with your book, in 
spite of all the difficulties you have had to struggle with, 
which have been many. I need not say, for you know 
already, I wish it a happy and long life. Keep a good 
heart. May God give us all grace to stay our hearts on 
Him who has said in His word, "He will keep them in 
perfect peace whose minds are stayed on Him, because 
they trust in Him." 

"Wait on the Lord and be thou strong, 

And He will strength afford 
Unto thy heart: yea, do thou wait, 
I say upon the Lord. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 121 

"What time my heart is overwhelmed 
And in perplexity, 
Do thou me lead unto the Rock 
That higher is than I." 

Let us not be careful what the world thinks of us, if we 
can say with a good conscience, with Toplady: 

"Careless, myself a dying man, 

Of dying men's esteem; 
Happy, oh Lord, if thou approve, 
Though all beside condemn." 

You will say, I know all these things. "But they are 
sooner said than done." 
Be of courage, my dear son, and seek God for your 

guide I will be glad to see you both here to rest 

awhile when the fight is over. 

There perhaps never was a greater scrawl. Wink at it. 
God bless you, my dear children. 

Your affectionate mother 

Margaret A. CarlylE 

Some friends having arranged for him a course 
of lectures — three days before appearing in this new 
role, he wrote: 

I lie quiet and have the greatest appetite in the world to 
do nothing at all. On Monday at three o'clock comes my 
first lecture, but I mean to take it as coolly as possible. 
It is neither death nor men's lives, whether I speak well or 
speak ill, or do nothing but gasp. One of my friends was 
inquiring about it lately. I told him some days ago I 
could speak abundantly and cared nothing about it. At 



122 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

other times 1 felt as if when Monday came the natural 
speech for me would be this : "Good Christians, it has 
become entirely impossible for me to talk to you about 
German or any literature or terrestrial thing; one request 
only I have to make, that you would be kind enough to 
cover me under a tub for the next six weeks and go your 
ways with all my blessing." This were a result well worth 
remarking; but it is not likely to be this. On the whole, 
dear mother, fear nothing. One great blessing is that in 
three weeks it must be done one way or another. It will 
be over then, and all well. 

The lectures, it may be said, went off well, and 
brought in a small but very welcome sum to the 
poverty-stricken author. Shortly afterwards, he 
betook himself to Scotsbrig, where was spent a 
peaceful two-months with his mother. Together 
they smoked their pipes in the garden, and enjoyed 
thoroughly the brief holiday. 

Carlyle had passed through years of toil, dis- 
couragement, and hardship, but the tide had now 
turned, and at the age of forty-two, he was 
accounted a great writer. The "French. Revolu- 
tion" had been published, and sold well, meeting 
with much favor. 

From Scotsbrig he wrote to John Carlyle: 

Our good mother keeps very well here. She and I have 
been out once or twice for two hours, helping Jamie with 
his hay. She is "waul as an eel" while working. She 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 123 

cooks our little meal, which we eat peaceably together. 
She mends clothes, bakes scones, is very fond of news- 
papers, especially Radical ones, and stands up for the 
rights of man. She has toiled on into near the end of the 
second volume of the "French Revolution,"- not without 
considerable understanding of it, though the French names 
are a sad clog. She will make it out pretty completely by 
and by. 

Through Emerson's influence, the "French 
Revolution" and "Sartor Resartus" were published 
in America, and Carlyle received one hundred and 
fifty pounds as the proceeds before one penny came 
from England. Of the first fifty pounds, he sent 
five to his mother, "off the fore end of it. The 
kitten ought to bring the auld cat a mouse in such 
a case as that — an American mouse." 

Years passed by, bringing to Mrs. Carlyle much 
reason for pride in her favorite son's established 
literary reputation, and strengthening the bonds of 
affectionate comradeship which had existed be- 
tween them since his youth. 

The year 1853 found her health to be failing 
rapidly. On December 4 came his last letter to 
her: 

It is this day gone fifty-eight years that I was born. 
.... I am now myself grown old, and have had various 
things to do and suffer for so many years ; but there is 
nothing I ever had to be so much thankful for as the 



i2 4 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

mother I had. That is a truth which I know well, and 
perhaps this day again it may be some comfort to you. 
Yes, surely, for if there has been any good in the things 
I have uttered in the world's hearing, it was your voice 
essentially that was speaking through me ; essentially what 
you and my brave father meant and taught me to mean, 
this was the purport of all I spoke and wrote. And if in 
the few years that remain to me I am to get any more 
written for the world, the essence of it, so far as it is 
worthy and good, will still be yours. 

May God reward you, dearest mother, for all you have 
done for me! I never can. Ah no! but will think of it 
with gratitude and pious love as long as I have the power 
of thinking. 

The end was even nearer than he dreamed. The 
dear mother, whose tender ministrations, wise 
counsel, and cheering words had meant more to 
him than language could express, had more than 
rounded out her fourscore years, and was verging 
on the close of her earthly pilgrimage. 

From the journal of Thomas Carlyle is taken 
this record of her last moments : 

January 8, 1854: The stroke has fallen. My dear 
mother is gone from me, and in the winter of the year, 
confusedly under darkness of weather and of mind, the 
stern final epoch — epoch of old age — is beginning to un- 
fold itself for me. I had gone to the Grange with Jane, 
not very willingly; was sadly in worthless solitude for 
most part passing my Christmas season there. The news 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 125 

from Scotsbrig had long been bad; extreme weakness, for 
there was no disease, threatening continually for many 
months past to reach its term. What to do I knew not. 
At length shaking aside my sick languor and wretched 
uncertainty I perceived plainly that I ought not to be there 
— but I ought to go to Scotsbrig at all risks straightway. 
This was on Tuesday, December 20; on Wednesday I came 
home; on Thursday evening set off northward by the 
express train. The night's travel, Carlisle for the three- 
quarters of an hour I waited, Kirtlebridge at last, and my 
anxieties in the walk to Scotsbrig; these things I shall 
not forget. It is a matter of perennial thankfulness to me, 
and beyond my desert in that matter very far, that I found 
my dear old mother still alive; able to recognize me with a 
faint joy, her former self still strangely visible there in 
all its lineaments, though worn to the uttermost thread. 
The brave old mother and the good, whom to lose had been 
my fear ever since intelligence awoke in me in this world, 
arrived now at the final bourne. 

Never shall I forget her wearied eyes that morning, 
looking out gently into the wintry daylight; every instant 
falling together in sleep and then opening again. She had 
in general the most perfect clearness of intellect, courage- 
ous composure, affectionate patience, complete presence of 
mind. 

Dark clouds of physical suffering, etc., did from time to 
time eclipse and confuse ; but the steady light, gone now 
to the size of a star, as it had been a sun, came always out 
victorious again. At night on that Friday she had for- 
gotten me, "Knew me only since the morning." I went 
into the other room; in a few minutes she sent for me to 



126 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

say she did now remember it all, and knew her son 
Tom as of old. "Tell us how thou sleeps," she said, when 
I took leave about midnight. "Sleeps !" Alas ; she herself 
had lain in a sleep of death for sixteen hours, till that very 
morning at six, when I was on the road! That was the 
third of such sleeps or half- faints lasting for fifteen or 
sixteen hours. Jane saw the first of them in August. On 
Saturday, if I recollect, her sense in general seemed clear, 
though her look of weakness was greater than ever. 
Brother Jamie and I had gone out to walk in the after- 
noon. Returning about dusk we found her suffering 
greatly; want of breath, owing to weakness. What passed 
from that time till midnight will never efface itself, and 
need not be written here. I never saw a mind more clear 
and present, though worn down now to the uttermost and 
smiling in the dark floods. My good, veracious, affection- 
ate, and brave old mother! 

I keep one or two incidents and all the perplexed image 
of that night to myself, as something very precious, 
singular, and sternly sacred to me; beautiful too in its 
valiant simple worth, and touching as what else could be 
to me? 

About eleven my brother John ventured on half a dose 
of laudanum, the pain of breathing growing ever worse 
otherwise. Relief perceptible in consequence, we sent my 
sister Jean to bed — who had watched for nights and 
months, relieved only by John at intervals. I came into 
the room where John was now watching. "Here is Tom 
come to bid you good night, mother," said he. She smiled 
assent, took leave of me as usual. As I turned to go she 
said, "I'm muckle obleeged t'ye." Those were her last 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 127 

voluntary words in this world. After that she spoke no 
more — slept even deeper. Her sleep lasted about sixteen 
hours. She lay on her back, stirred no muscle. The face 
was that of a statue with slight changes of expression. 
"Infinite astonishment" was what one might have fancied 
to read on it at one time; the breathing not very hard or 
quick, yet evidently difficult, and not changing sensibly in 
character, till 4 p. m., when it suddenly fell lower, paused, 
again paused, perhaps still again; and our good and dear 
old mother was gone from her sorrows and from us. I 
did not weep much, or at all, except for moments ; but the 
sight too, and the look backwards and forwards, was one 
that a far harder heart might have melted under. Fare- 
well, farewell ! 

She was about eighty-four years of age, and could not 
with advantage to any side remain with us longer. Surely 
it was a good Power that gave us such a mother ; and good 
though stern that took her away from amid such grief 
and labor by a death beautiful to one's thoughts. 

"All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my 
change come." This they often heard her muttering, and 
many other less frequent pious texts and passages. Amen, 
Amen! 

Sunday, December 25th, 1853 — a day henceforth forever 
memorable to me. The funeral was on Thursday. Intense 
frost had come on Monday night. I lingered about Scots- 
brig, wandering silently in the bright hard silent mornings 
and afternoons, waiting till all small temporal matters were 
settled — which they decently were. 

On Monday morning I went — cold as Siberia, yet a 
bright sun shining; had a painful journey, rapid as a 



128 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

comet, but with neither food nor warmth attainable till 
after midnight, when my sad pilgrimage ended. 

Since then I have been very languidly sorting rubbish, 
very languid, sad, and useless every way. It can not be 
said that I have yet learned this severe lesson I have got. 
I must try to learn it more and more or it will not pass 
from me. To live for the shorter or longer remainder of 
my days with the simple bravery, veracity, and piety, of 
her that is gone; that would be a right learning from her 
death, and a right honoring of her memory. But alas ! all 
is yet frozen within me ; even as it is without me at present, 
and I have made little or no way. God be helpful to me ! 
I myself am very weak, confused, fatigued, entangled in 
poor worldiness too. Newspaper paragraphs, even as this 
sacred and peculiar thing, are not indifferent to me. Weak 
soul ! and I am fifty-eight years old, and the tasks I have 
on hand, Frederick, etc., are most ungainly, incongruous 
with my mood — and the night cometh, for me too is not 
distant, which for her is come. I must try, I must try. 

Writing to a friend, he said: 

I got here in time to be recognized, to be cheered with 
the sacred beauty of a devout and valiant soul's departure. 
God make me thankful for such a mother. God. enable me 
to live more worthily of her in the years I may still have 
left. 

To his brother John, he wrote: 

My labor is miserably languid, the heart within me is 
low and sad. I have kept quite alone, seen nobody at all. 
I think of our dear mother with a kind of mournful 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 129 

blessedness. Her life was true, simple, generous, brave; 
her end with the last sad traces of these qualities still 
visible in it, was very beautiful if very sad to us. I would 
not for much want those two stern days at Scotsbrig from 
my memory. They lie consecrated there as if baptized in 
sorrow with the greatness of eternity in them. 

And again: 

My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, all hung with black 
in general. I hold my peace in general and accept the 
decrees of Heaven, still hoping that some useful labor may 
again be possible for me here, which is the one consola- 
tion I can conceive at present. 

The passing weeks found Carlyle "professing to 
work ; making no headway at all." Grief had seized 
upon him; and his mother was constantly in his 
thoughts. 

His journal, February 28, 1854, records the 
following : 

Sunday morning last there came into my mind a vision 
of the old Sunday mornings I had seen at Mainhill, etc. 
Poor old mother, father, and the rest of us bustling about 
to get dressed in time and down to the meeting-house at 
Ecclefechan. 

Inexpressibly sad to me and full of meaning. They are 
gone now, vanished all; their poor bits of thrifty clothes, 
more precious to me than Queen's or King's expensive 
trappings, their pious effort, their "little life," it is all 
away. So with all things. Nature and this big universe 



i 3 o MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

in all corners of it show nothing else. Time ! Death ! All- 
devouring Time ! This thought, "Exeunt omnes," and how 
the generations are like crops of grass, temporary, very, 
and all vanishes, as it were an apparition and a ghost; 
these things, though half a century old in me, possess my 

mind as they never did before My mother! my 

good heavy-laden dear and brave and now lost mother ! 
The thought that I shall never see her more with these 
eyes gives a strange painful flash into me many times when 
I look at that portrait I have of her. "Like Ulysses," 
as I say, I converse with the shade of my mother, and 
sink out of all company and light common talk into that 

grand element of sorrow and eternal stillness Oh 

pious mother ! kind, good, brave, and truthful soul as I 
have ever found, and more than I have ever elsewhere 
found in this world, your poor Tom, long out of his 
schooldays now, has fallen very lonely, very lame and 
broken in this pilgrimage of his; and you can not help 
him or cheer him by a kind word any more. 

From your grave in Ecclefechan kirkyard yonder you 
bid him trust in God, and that also he will try if he can 
understand, and do. The conquest of the world and of 
death and hell does verily yet lie in that, if one can under- 
stand and do it. 



IV 

SUSANNA ANNESLEY 
WESLEY 

MOTHER OF 
JOHN AND CHARLES WESLEY 

IN truth may it be said, "Susanna Wesley's hand 
rings all the Methodist church bells around the 
globe today" ; for it was the mother of John and 
Charles Wesley who inspired and stimulated the 
movement which resulted in worldwide Metho- 
dism. 

Susanna Annesley, the daughter of Dr. Samuel 
Annesley, was born in the latter part of the seven- 
teenth century, and came of noble lineage, being, 
on her paternal side, of the house of the Earl of 
Anglesea. 

In his young manhood, Samuel Annesley won 
many honors at Oxford and in later life served 
as chaplain at sea, and as pastor of two of the 
largest congregations in London. 

For centuries the religious history of England 
had been a story of bitter conflict and unrest — 



132 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Independent and Prelatist, Protestant and 
Romanist, met in 'a continual struggle for suprem- 
acy; and in behalf of the church, England's fame 
had ofttimes been besmirched by deeds of darkest 
violence. It was during the crucial period of this 
prolonged season of religious controversy that Dr. 
Annesley's life was passed. Refusing to conform 
to the Established Church of England, he became 
a dissenting clergyman; and after taking this bold 
step, suffered, during the remaining thirty years 
of his life, manifold hardships as the penalty for 
adherence to his convictions. 

Susanna Annesley inherited from her father 
striking personal attractiveness, as well as great 
activity of mind, combined with unusual strength 
of character. Among marked characteristics 
evidenced in early childhood was especially por- 
trayed an unswerving obedience to the dictates of 
conscience, which was so strongly emphasized in 
the character of her father. When Susanna had 
scarcely reached the age of thirteen years, after 
having made a diligent study of the fierce contro- 
versy then being waged between the Church and 
the Dissenters, she calmly and deliberately 
announced herself as upholding the cause of the 
Church. To Dr. Annesley, it was a severe and 
unexpected blow to discover that the pronounced 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 133 

opinions which he sustained were rejected in his 
own household. Recognizing, however, in his 
young daughter a piety and strength of character 
unusual for one of her years, Dr. Annesley stifled 
his regret at her decision, and exhibited toward 
Susanna the same strong affection which he had 
always bestowed upon her. He realized that she 
had studied carefully the questions which were 
disturbing older heads, and that her convictions 
were the results of calm deliberation and unbiased 
thought; so deemed it only right that she should 
be permitted to hold her own opinion even in 
regard to such weighty matters. 

Thus Susanna's girlhood merged into woman- 
hood, and she grew in strength of intellect, wideness 
of knowledge, and self-reliance; all problems that 
confronted her were reasoned out alone, and, after 
diligent study and due deliberation, she accepted 
only that which to her mind seemed unquestionably 
true and right. She received an excellent educa- 
tion; and from her letters, and the record of those 
who knew her intimately, it is not surprising that 
she has been adjudged in many respects the peer 
of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the foremost 
woman in England at that period. 

The personal beauty of Susanna Wesley has been 
the subject of much comment. A portrait, painted 



i 3 4 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

at the age of twenty-five, shows a face of rare 
loveliness and intellectuality. This charm of 
countenance was enhanced by rich gifts of intellect 
and Christian graces, throughout a long life of 
more than three score years and ten. 

It was while living in London, that Susanna 
Annesley, at the age of twenty, became the wife of 
Samuel Wesley. The father and grandfather of 
young Samuel Wesley were both clergymen of 
strong convictions, and by adhering to certain be- 
liefs unconformable to the Church, suffered in con- 
sequence persecution and imprisonment. 

It had been the intention of Samuel Wesley to 
become a dissenting clergyman, but rather than 
approve the beheading of Charles I., he returned 
to the Established Church. Acting as tutor, he 
worked his way through College at Oxford, and 
while there began the work of visiting prisoners 
and the needy poor. 

For a while after their marriage, the Wesleys 
resided in London, where Samuel Wesley held the 
positions, first, of curate; and afterward served as 
chaplain in the Fleet. The family, which numbered 
at that time six children, later removed to 
Epworth, a rural village of Lincolnshire, which 
possessed little charm of surroundings. Here, in 
the Epworth parsonage, built one hundred years 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 135 

before, dwelt this interesting family; and here 
Susanna Wesley reared her nineteen children. 
Beneath the thatched roof of the parsonage were 
three large chambers — a parlor, hall, "buttery," and 
a few small rooms. And in these limited quarters 
the young Wesleys dwelt in apparent contentment, 
never showing dissatisfaction that fortune had not 
favored them more. Over all the home the mother 
reigned supreme, with the exception of the study, 
which was to the father a "holy of holies," a 
sanctum not to be disturbed. In the seclusion of 
his little domain, Samuel Wesley studied, and 
wrote sermons; and when free from pastoral 
duties, spent many hours occupied in his favorite 
pastime — writing essays and dissertations on varied 
subjects of a religious nature. Among his best 
works was a Latin dissertation on the book of Job. 
Although a man of wide learning, with a deep 
passion for rhyming, and gifted with a prolific pen, 
Samuel Wesley's writings did not gain for him 
either reputation or remuneration. Before their 
removal to Epworth, the family income had been 
only fifty pounds per annum; but even with this 
slender amount Susanna Wesley had managed 
affairs so judiciously that the family, consisting at 
that time of eight, lived in comfort, if not in 
luxury. At Epworth, the salary of Samuel Wesley 



136 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

amounted to two hundred pounds, which, although 
not a large sum, was nevertheless a very desirable 
increase of funds for expenditure in the family, 
which gradually grew until nineteen young Wesleys 
clustered beneath the parsonage roof. 

In her home, Susanna Wesley was the pivot about 
which all else revolved; and here she reigned with 
gentle and undisputed sway. Truly no queen did 
ever rule more wisely or more conscientiously than 
did this mother over her little kingdom. Burdened 
continually with the multitudinous cares incidental 
to the household of a poor country clergyman, 
Susanna Wesley met every phase of life calmly and 
wisely, giving personal supervision to all family 
affairs and housekeeping duties ; and managing the 
disposition of a very limited income with marked 
business ability and judgment. 

At this time, imprisonment for debt was a com- 
mon punishment in England. On one occasion, 
Samuel Wesley was unable to meet the demand for 
payment of a small debt he had incurred, and was 
imprisoned for the period of three months. Deem- 
ing it his duty to help his fellow-man under all cir- 
cumstances, he acted as chaplain to the other prison- 
ers. During his incarceration, Wesley was greatly 
sustained by the fortitude of his wife, on whom 
alone the responsibility of providing for her large 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 137 

family rested during this period of financial dis- 
aster. She even sent to him her rings, that some 
small personal comforts might be purchased, but 
he returned them, preferring to deny himself rather 
than deprive her of the few trinkets which she 
possessed. 

The married life of the Wesleys was happy and 
peaceful, with the exception of one occurrence, 
when their strong wills clashed, thereby causing 
temporary estrangement. One evening when 
Samuel Wesley read, as usual, prayers for the king, 
William III., Susanna did not respond with the 
customary "Amen." Her husband inquired the 
reason, and received the reply that she "did not 
consider that William had the right to be king, and 
in accordance with this belief she would refuse to 
acknowledge him." An argument of much warmth 
followed; and, finding Susanna to be as unchange- 
able in her opinion as he in his, Samuel departed 
from home. A year passed by, and there came the 
death of William, and the accession to the throne 
of Anne. With the reign of a sovereign whom 
both were willing to acknowledge, reconciliation 
and reunion were restored in the Wesley home. 
This incident, which is recorded by their son, John 
Wesley, is strongly illustrative of the unbending 
will of both parents. 



138 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

In the care and training of her children, Susanna 
Wesley was most painstaking. The rearing of the 
little Wesleys, from earliest babyhood, was exceed- 
ingly "methodical," as she herself expressed it. 
The first months of a child's life she deemed should' 
be passed for the most part in sleeping; then the 
time should be gradually reduced until sleep during 
the daytime was not needed. At the age of one 
year the infant was taught to "cry softly" ; and in 
regard to this method of instruction the young 
Wesleys must have been apt pupils, since it is said 
the sound of crying rarely disturbed the peaceful 
atmosphere of this model home. Rules as to sys- 
tematic living were regularly enforced, and the 
daily routine moved on like clockwork. Eating and 
drinking between meals was forbidden, except in 
case of illness ; promptly at eight o'clock each 
evening, all the children retired, unattended, except 
the very youngest. At prayers and during grace 
they were taught the utmost reverence, even when 
too tiny to kneel or speak. No study was allowed 
to tax the young brain until the child had reached 
five years of age; at that time the youthful scholar 
entered upon the elementary tasks of acquiring an 
education. Alone together in a room free from 
disturbance, the mother and child spent the first 
day of school life, mastering the alphabet. Three 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 139 

hours in the morning and three in the afternoon 
were allotted to this difficult task; and, of the 
entire family, it is said that only two children 
required as much time as a day and a half. The 
next task to be accomplished was to read and spell 
perfectly a chapter in Genesis, which doubtless was 
not mastered in so brief a time. This was the in- 
troduction of the Wesley children into the world 
of letters; and thus were the habits of the student 
fixed in early life. So patient and painstaking was 
the mother that no amount of time was spared to 
make plain some difficult passage or problem. It 
is told that on one occasion Mrs. Wesley went over 
and over again with John some portion of a lesson 
which it seemed impossible for him to understand. 
The father, sitting near-by, became irritated at the 
apparent stupidity of the child, and exclaimed, 
"Susanna, why do you tell that lad the same thing 
for the hundredth time?" "Because," was the calm 
reply, "the ninety-ninth time he did not under- 
stand." 

At an early age, also, was the religious training 
of the Wesleys begun; and most earnestly and 
zealously were they instructed in the ways of 
Christian living. When about thirty years of age, 
Susanna Wesley, realizing that she was giving too 
little time to her devotional exercises, decided to 



140 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

spend an hour each morning and each evening in 
the study of the Bible and in prayer. It doubtless 
meant a great sacrifice on the part of the busy 
housewife and mother, with multitudinous duties 
and constant demands upon her time, to set apart 
daily two hours for devotional exercises; but she 
did so, and there is no evidence that other duties 
were neglected. This example of piety must have 
exerted great influence over the lives of her chil- 
dren, who looked up to the mother with an affection 
little short of adoration. 

That one woman could have accomplished all 
that has been accredited to Susanna Wesley, seems 
indeed remarkable. She employed system with re- 
gard to all duties, and gave personal attention to 
the minute details of household affairs. It has been 
authentically stated that in the government of her 
well-ordered home "she never lost her temper, nor 
once was forced to chastise any member of her 
family." 

Observing the trend of intellect and varied dis- 
positions of her children, she sought to understand 
thoroughly the temperament and individuality of 
each one. In one of her letters, there is evidenced 
the deep interest which was taken in the develop- 
ment of each child's mind: "I discuss every night 
with each child by itself, on something that relates 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 141 

to its principal concerns. On Monday I talk with 
Molly; on Tuesday with Hetty; Wednesday with 
Nancy; Thursday with Jacky; Friday with Patty; 
Saturday with Charles ; and with Emily and Sukey 
on Sunday." 

In later years, Sunday must have been a very 
full day if all the little Wesleys came in for a share 
of the mother's time. To "Jadcy" especially, the 
recollection of this evening chat was always a 
cherished memory; and Thursday seemed to him 
ever afterward a mid-week Sabbath. 

Music occupied no unimportant place in the 
Epworth home, which has been likened to "a very 
nest of songsters." Of all the children, John and 
Charles were most musical, and both are said to 
have been gifted with voices of remarkable sweet- 
ness. 

Of this interesting family, ten of the children 
lived to reach adult years. 

In John especially, when he was only a tiny lad, 
did the mother recognize unusual gifts and great 
mental endowment. In early childhood, he was 
called on to pass through certain experiences which 
seemed to develop in a marked manner the fineness 
and nobility of his character. When four years of 
age, he was stricken with smallpox, and so hero- 
ically did the little fellow endure suffering that 



142 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Susanna Wesley felt that the characteristics of the 
child, displayed thus early, prophesied great things 
for the man; and bespoke her intention of being 
"most careful of the soul of this child/' 

Among the principles which she laid down J. or 
him, the following seems to have permeated his 
entire life and guided every action: "Whatever 
weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of 
your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or 
takes off the relish of spiritual things — in short, 
whatsoever increases the strength and authority of 
your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, 
however innocent it may be in itself." 

Many years afterwards, John Wesley paid 
eloquent tribute to the teachings of his mother. 
Speaking of her wonderful capability, he describes 
her as writing, conversing, or transacting business, 
surrounded by thirteen children! 

When John was only six years old, the Epworth 
parsonage was burned, and he narrowly escaped 
death in the flames. Deeply impressed by his 
miraculous escape, he always considered that he 
was "as a brand plucked from the burning," and 
providentially saved to accomplish a great work 
for the world. 

The mother, who so wisely ruled her household, 
instructed her children, and ably transacted busi- 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 143 

ness matters, seemed capable of meeting any cir- 
cumstance which arose. Once when her husband 
was detained in London on business, Susanna de- 
cided to conduct special religious services for her 
family, there being no afternoon nor evening 
service at the Epworth Church. Others soon 
learned of the meetings to be held, and numbers 
sought admittance. Samuel feared that Susanna's 
action might meet with the disapproval of the 
Church, but hesitated as to what course of action 
to pursue. The meetings soon grew to large pro- 
portions, there being sometimes more than two 
hundred in attendance ; and the sermons were com- 
mented on as being the "best and most awakening" 
the community had yet listened to. 

The curate, however, became offended, and the 
matter was referred to Mr. Wesley, who ordered 
his wife to cease holding services, but said that, if 
she so desired, she might procure someone to act 
in her stead. Susanna argued her case by replying 
that scarcely a man among those attending could 
read intelligently, and while her boys might do the 
reading in her place, they could not be heard by 
all present ; that numbers had not been to church in 
years, and that there was much evidence of good 
being accomplished by the meetings held. She 
remarked, however, that though she "would stop 



144 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

at no man's grumbling, she would if he so com- 
manded her, obey lawful authority"; adding that 
he, as pastor and husband, must take upon himself 
the responsibility in regard to having the meetings 
cease. 

The Wesley family was gifted richly in mental 
endowments and ability — five of the ten children 
who reached maturity being noted especially for 
intellectuality and brilliancy of mind. John and 
Charles are best known to the world ; and it is John 
who has given greatest prominence to the name of 
Wesley. From both mother and father he in- 
herited boldness of spirit and Christian zeal; but it 
was the mother's faithful training and guiding hand 
that shaped his life, and stamped upon his char- 
acter ideals of greatness. As philanthropist, writer, 
evangelist, and founder of Methodism, John 
Wesley lived for eighty-seven years, an honor to 
his country and to the Christian faith. 

To him the devoted mother was ever an object 
of tenderest affection and reverence. It was 
doubtless his high regard for her capabilities and 
gifts of mind that led John Wesley to open a wider 
sphere for woman, which admitted her to the pul- 
pit. Of the women-preachers of that day, one of 
the most notable was Dinah Evans, to whom George 
Eliot has given a prominent place in literature as 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 145 

one of the chief characters in "Adam Bede." Dinah 
Evans was heard with greatest reverence by the 
rudest crowds, and accomplished much for the 
church in the early days of Methodism. Her hus- 
band, Seth Evans, was known as a class-leader, and 
their friendship began when he first heard her 
preach. 

The closing years of Susanna Wesley's life were 
spent in the home of her son, John, in London. 
Here, at the historic old Foundry Church, he 
preached, and the aged mother manifested deepest 
interest in his efforts to spread the gospel. 

After a long life of usefulness, of greatest activ- 
ity, and of unceasing zeal for the work of the king- 
dom of Christ, Susanna Wesley, having passed 
through the peaceful serenity of closing years con- 
spicuous for their beauty and grace, reached the 
completion of her days. Five daughters and the 
beloved son, John, attended her deathbed, and, at 
the request of the venerable mother, mingled their 
voices in a "psalm of praise to God," as her spirit 
took its flight. 

In the life of Susanna Wesley, one may find a 
faithful likeness of Solomon's pen-portrait of the 
perfect woman. Certainly, as a type of the Chris- 
tian mother in whose character are combined all 



146 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

the traits and gifts which unite to make up a well- 
rounded life, she approaches very near to this 
standard of perfection. 



V 
MONICA 

MOTHER OF 
SAINT AUGUSTINE 

LIKE the reflected glow from some brilliant 
star which has long since vanished from 
d the heavens, there comes through the mists 
of intervening centuries, undimmed and serenely 
beautiful, the life-story of Monica, mother of Saint 
Augustine. Most striking and impressive is her 
exhibition of the fathomless love and unbounded 
devotion of motherhood. 

The principal facts concerning the life of Monica 
are culled from the autobiographical writings of 
her gifted son, for their lives are so closely inter- 
twined that the biography of one must include that 
of the other. In the year 332 A. D., this remarkable 
woman, whose life was destined to exert an in- 
fluence which may well be said to be illimitable, 
was born. Had the fourth century given to his- 
tory as prominent figures, only Monica and the son 
through whose fame she lives and is revered, it 



148 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

would have sufficed to make that period a notable 
one. 

Not far from the ancient city of Carthage, in 
Northern Africa, was located the old Roman town 
of Thagaste, in the fertile province of Numidia; 
and it was here that Monica was born. Her 
parents, who were evidently people of noble rank 
and affluence, exercised marked care and strict 
discipline in the rearing and educating of their chil- 
dren. Monica, as a child, was of an intensely 
religious nature, and especially was she interested 
in caring for the sick and needy, whenever oppor- 
tunity afforded. Gentleness and calmness were 
among her chief characteristics; and when at play 
disputes arose among her little companions, it re- 
quired but a word from Monica to bring about an 
amicable adjustment. Thus the character of the 
child foreshadowed that of the woman; and it is 
not surprising that maturer years only added grace 
and charm. Augustine, describing his mother says : 
"She was of a highly intellectual and spiritual cast, 
of most tender affection and all-conquering love." 
And surely no description could be more true to 
life, more swift to convey a correct impression of 
one who so aptly serves as a model of saintly 
womanhood. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 149 

An aged family servant, who had attended the 
father in his infancy, was an important factor in 
the family circle, and wielded an unrestrained in- 
fluence over the entire household. Of this influence 
upon Monica's early years, Augustine, in his "Con- 
fessions," writes : "By exercising strict discipline 
over her moral conduct, and using a holy prudence 
in educating her, she inured the child's tender heart 
to the practices of noble virtues. Between the hours 
of her modest repasts at her father's table, she was 
not permitted, were she thirsty, to touch a drop of 
water," thus teaching her, in the most trivial mat- 
ters, self-control and obedience. Augustine con- 
tinues : "Behold, O my God, how Thou didst form 
her, when neither father nor mother suspected 
what she would one day be. Thou didst place her 
cradle in the bosom of a pious family, one of the 
best regulated in Thy holy church; and therein, 
under the guidance of thy Divine Son, she grew 
up in the fear of God, which is the beginning of 
wisdom." 

An incident related of Monica's childhood illus- 
trates her determination to exert self-control in 
every matter of life ; to avoid, as it were, even "the 
very appearance of evil." As was the prevailing 
custom of that time, young girls were instructed in 
their homes in the duties of housekeeping; and 



150 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

among various daily tasks, Monica, accompanied by 
a maid-servant, was sent to the cellar to make pro- 
vision of wine for the family. Not being permitted 
to drink water between meals, she frequently took 
a sip of wine to allay her thirst, and naturally be- 
came very fond of it. One day when in the wine- 
cellar, the servant noted with what eagerness 
Monica quaffed off her little cup, and thoughtlessly 
called her a "wine-bibber." The taunt struck deep 
— Monica's pride was stung by this insult, and 
henceforth she refused to taste wine, fearing that 
an undue fondness might perhaps lead her, in real- 
ity, to become a wine-bibber! In after years she 
related this story to Augustine, adding that so zeal- 
ous had she been in endeavoring to keep the vow 
made in childhood, that even in the rites of the 
church where wine was used, she barely touched it 
to her lips. 

At the age of twenty-two, Monica was married 
to Patricius, who held the position of Curial, or 
municipal magistrate in Thagaste. He was more 
than twice her age, and possessed little wealth. 
This union did not result in congenial married life, 
for Patricius is described as a man of dissolute 
character, "an unbeliever, of rude and passionate 
sensibility," and as having little regard for the 
Christian faith. 



MOTHERvS OF GREAT MEN 151 

To add to the sorrows of her new life, Monica 
was compelled to make her home with her hus- 
band's mother, a violent woman, with a most jealous 
disposition. Even the servants of the home were 
arraigned against Monica ; and it seemed, with such 
surrounding conditions, that her cup was well-nigh 
full. Instead, however, of seeking to avoid the 
trials which beset her, she reasoned that God had 
given Patricius to her that she might convert him 
from a life of paganism to the Christian faith. She 
became, as it were, a living martyr, and in gentle- 
ness and lowliness of spirit endeavored to win her 
husband from evil ways to a Christian life; and 
also, to live peacefully with his mother. So tactful 
and patient was Monica that the harsh mother-in- 
law was by degrees won over by her sweet, un- 
selfish spirit; and the two finally dwelt together in 
perfect harmony. When in storms of passionate 
temper Patricius raged, Monica spoke not a word; 
when his sins were brought most vividly to her 
attention, she suffered in silence — through prayer, 
and by example she endeavored to exert an 
influence more potent than that of words — religion 
was not merely preached from her lips, it permeated 
her entire life. 

It was no unusual thing for women, even of high 
rank, to be so maltreated by their husbands that 



152 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

bruises frequently gave evidence of brutality; and 
young friends of Monica often came to her with 
bitter complaints of cruel treatment received. To 
all, the admonition was alike, "Take care of your 
tongues." And so perfectly was her own tongue 
under control, that never, even when in his most 
violent outbursts of temper, did Patricius strike his 
wife, or attempt to do her personal injury. His 
affection and respect for her unconsciously deep- 
ened and increased, until gradually he became trans- 
formed in heart and mind, though it required long 
years of loyal devotion, patient waiting, and earnest 
prayer, on the part of the wife, who lived all the 
while amid conditions little conducive to happiness 
or to the strengthening of her faith. Says Augus- 
tine, referring to Monica and Patricius, "Every day 
she appeared more beautiful in his eyes, and that 
beauty born of virtue began already to gain for her 
the respect and love and admiration of her hus- 
band." 

Amid the sorrows which darkened these early 
years of womanhood, joy entered Monica's life in 
the coming of three little ones to brighten the other- 
wise cheerless home. The firstborn, Augustine, was 
destined to become one of the world's immortals, 
and is esteemed as the most eminent of the Latin 
fathers. On the thirteenth day of November, 354 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 153 

A. D., he came to gladden the heart of the mother 
whose young life was well-nigh crushed beneath 
its burden of sorrow. 

The lives of Monica and her oldest son are 
closely interwoven, and to him she gave of her 
heart's deepest, tenderest affection. Tradition says 
that before his birth she had a vision revealing the 
great things he would one day accomplish, pro- 
vided she should influence him to be faithful to 
God. The responsibility of fulfilling this duty 
seemed henceforth to be the foremost object of her 
life, and she gave to it her constant thought and 
endeavor. 

The second son, Navigius, was of a gentle, retir- 
ing disposition, and he never experienced the 
storms which beset the elder brother's life. Con- 
tinued ill-health caused him to spend much time 
quietly at home, where he indulged his literary 
tastes, and was the means of consoling and cheering 
Monica during the unhappy experiences and 
wanderings of Augustine. Though little is known 
of the younger son, history records enough to prove 
that Navigius was a decided contrast to Augustine, 
not only in temperament and character, but also in 
mental ability. 

The daughter of Monica, Perpetua, is said to 
have been, like her mother, of an extremely pious 



154 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

nature. In early life, she married, and soon after- 
ward was left a widow without children. After her 
husband's death, Perpetua made her home with 
Augustine; but from the day of his ordination he 
permitted no woman, not even his sister, to dwell 
under his roof, so she consecrated herself to the 
religious life, and became superioress in one of the 
convents founded by Saint Augustine. From the let- 
ters of Augustine, we learn that he always gave to 
his sister the title of saint, and regarded her with 
deepest affection and respect. In Rome and other 
places, many altars were dedicated to Navigius and 
Perpetua, both of whom were held in high esteem 
by the church. 

At an early age, Augustine evidenced unusual 
brilliancy of mind, and, both parents being ambi- 
tious for his intellectual advancement, he was given 
the best instruction available. Monica endeavored 
to instill in him the principles of Christian man- 
hood, but in this attempt she received neither assist- 
ance nor encouragement from Patricius. 

In Madaura, not far from Thagaste, were cele- 
brated schools, and Monica accompanied Augustine 
there to place him under the care of more learned 
masters than his native town could afford. Having 
counseled him with fervor, and shed many tears at 
parting, she returned home to await with keen 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 155 

anxiety the result of this step ; for Augustine, even 
as a youth, was beginning to exhibit unworthy 
traits of character, and was rapidly becoming 
wayward. Although endowed with unusual gifts 
of intellect, he early showed decided aversion to 
study; and to avoid being forced to undergo what 
was to him exceedingly distasteful, practiced decep- 
tion in various ways, in order to mislead his parents 
and teachers. This was a source of much grief to 
Monica, and she often accompanied Augustine to 
"men of prayer," that they might impart higher 
ideals, and influence him to more exemplary habits. 
"I learned of them/' writes Augustine, "to conceive 
of Thee, O my God, as a supreme being, who with- 
out appearing to our eyes can nevertheless come to 
our aid. I commenced then to implore Thee to be- 
come my refuge and support in my troubles, and 
I prayed to Thee, child as I was, with no little 
fervor, to save me from being whipped at school. 
Alas ! Thou didst not always save me, and this 
was for my good. And all, even my parents them- 
selves, laughed at my terror of the ferrule — a 
bagatelle to them, but for me, at that time, a great 
trouble and terror." 

Besides his aversion to study, other faults more 
grievous and dangerous began to appear, for Augus- 
tine had inherited many evil tendencies from his 



156 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

father. Realizing the danger to which her son's 
course might lead if not checked by some strong 
and ennobling influence, Monica placed him in 
school at Madaura, and afterwards in Carthage, 
that he might have the best advantages of educa- 
tion, and also complete removal from the undesir- 
able influences which he sought in Thagaste. Hav- 
ing done this, she applied herself more diligently 
to prayer, relying in greater measure upon divine 
assistance than upon human aid for the welfare 
of her son. 

During these years when Monica's heart was 
filled with anxiety for Augustine, whose footsteps 
were fast slipping into paths of temptation, she 
had not been forgetful to intercede continually for 
the conversion of her husband, and, at length, had 
the great joy of seeing him accept Christianity. 
Through seventeen years of married life, she had 
prayed continually that Patricius might see the 
error of his way, and now rejoiced to see her 
prayers answered. Not long after his conversion, 
Patricius died, and Monica in her sorrow shed 
tears of joy that she had been permitted to be the 
means by which he was led to renounce a sinful life. 
Henceforth she gave herself more zealously to 
bringing about the conversion of Augustine. Per- 
ceiving that he easily mastered studies which at 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 157 

times baffled the minds of his masters, new hope 
sprang up within her, for she felt that the return 
of Augustine to God would be commenced through 
the study of science, and held strongly the belief 
that whatever elevates the soul brings men nearer 
to God. Knowing that Augustine cared little for 
the Bible, she did not press on him the study of the 
Scriptures. Tactful and patient, she relied upon 
prayer and the example of a holy life to change the 
heart of the son, as it had done that of the father. 

In the "Confessions of Augustine" is related 
most fully, and in a spirit of deepest humility and 
atonement, the story of his life. He tells of boy- 
hood days, when temptations drew him into evil 
paths; of how gradually he became a slave to 
wrongdoing; and finally gave himself up to a life 
of wickedness and shame. Carthage at that time 
was a city of much literary distinction, as well as 
of marked moral depravity, and here Augustine 
plunged into a life of unrestrained dissipation. He 
still spent some time, however, in study, and his 
intellectual powers continued to increase. 

In his nineteenth year, he happened upon 
Cicero's "Hortensius," and the dignity and import- 
ance of philosophy stirred within him higher 
thought and aspiration. While groping blindly for 
the truth, he was drawn into the Manichean faith; 



158 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

but after several years of adherence to this belief, 
was finally convinced that it was a mere sham. 

Through all the vicissitudes of his unworthy life, 
Monica clung to her son, never ceasing to pray for 
him, and never doubting that his feet would finally 
be led into paths of truth and rectitude. 

Learning of the arrival in Thagaste of a vener- 
able bishop, Monica hastened to consult him with 
regard to the course which she should pursue. With 
tears she told of her son's sinful life, and especially 
of his recent wandering into heresy. "Let him 
alone," was the advice of the bishop; "only pray 
fervently for him." Not satisfied with this advice, 
Monica, weeping bitterly, sought further counsel. 
The bishop then described his own life, which in a 
way was similar to that of Augustine, and told how 
he himself had been brought into the light through 
continued study. Finally, he exclaimed, "Go your 
way; it is impossible that the son of such tears 
should perish !" These prophetic words seemed to 
bring joy and comfort to the mother-heart, and she 
accepted them, as if a voice from heaven had 
spoken. 

After several years' residence in Carthage, 
Augustine decided to visit Rome, where he might 
have greater advantages, both to pursue his studies 
and to continue teaching. To this, Monica was 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 159 

bitterly opposed, rightly judging that he would be 
thus further removed from her, and that the slight 
influence which she had hitherto exerted over him 
would be entirely removed. Augustine was 
obdurate, and finally resorted to a plan of decep- 
tion by which he evaded her and departed. He 
had promised not to leave Africa, but meantime 
secretly made preparation to do so. A friend was 
to embark, and Augustine asked permission to 
accompany him to the shore, reiterating that he 
had no intention of sailing. Monica, however, 
was apprehensive, and accompanied them to the 
vessel. It was late afternoon when they reached 
the harbor, and on account of a high wind the ves- 
sel did not sail at the appointed hour. Augustine 
and his friend paced the shore, and Monica, grow- 
ing weary, finally retired to a small chapel near-by, 
where she passed the long hours in prayer and 
tears. During the night, the wind changed, and the 
boat set sail for Italy. In spite of the many 
promises that he would not go, Augustine carried 
out his original intention, and as the shore faded 
from sight he could see in the distance the little 
chapel where his devoted mother knelt in prayer, 
ignorant of his departure. 

When morning came, and Monica found that 
Augustine had proved faithless to his word, she 



160 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

was wild with grief, and attempted to secure pas- 
sage on another boat in order to follow him; but 
on calmer thought decided to return to her home 
in Thagaste, where, says Saint Augustine, "until the 
day of my conversion, she shed those floods of tears 
with which she daily watered the spot where she 
prayed for me." The thought of thus having 
cruelly deceived his mother, and thereby causing 
her more poignant pain than the act of leaving 
openly against her wishes would have occasioned, 
was ever afterward a source of remorseful grief to 
Augustine; and the sting of deception remained 
always a bitter memory, though he tried by con- 
fession and by various ways to make full atone- 
ment. 

Augustine went first to Rome, and then to Milan, 
wandering meanwhile "through the labyrinth of 
carnal pleasures, Manichean mock-wisdom, aca- 
demic skepticism, and Platonic idealism." Alter- 
nately studying and teaching, his mind, though 
dulled by dissipation, continued to develop and 
expand, and he was regarded as a young man of 
brilliant parts. During his residence in Rome, 
Augustine suffered a severe illness from fever, but 
gradually was restored to health. This recovery, 
he afterward writes, was in order that he might 
"live for God." On his renouncing the Manichean 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 161 

faith, Monica's hopes gained encouragement that 
her son might now become a Christian, and to this 
end she prayed more earnestly night and day. 

A year after Augustine's departure for Rome, 
Monica resolved to join him there, and on arriving 
found he had left for Milan. She continued her 
journey to that place, and rejoiced to be again with 
the son in whom centered her entire life. 

Endowed with unusual mental gifts, Monica fre- 
quently took part in conferences regarding 
religious, scientific, and philosophical questions, in 
which Augustine and various learned men were 
participants. Her keenness of intellect, ready 
speech, and depth of knowledge, made a profound 
impression on all who heard her, and she was 
regarded as a woman of remarkable learning. 

Augustine was now about the age of thirty, and 
had reached the darkest period of his life. The 
terrible gloom of despair was settling over him; 
and he was approaching a crisis which would mean 
the final shaping of his eternal life. Monica, at 
length, sought counsel with the noted Saint Ambrose 
of Milan, and it was under his teaching and admo- 
nition that Augustine was gradually led into a 
knowledge of the truth. 

At the age of thirty-three, the sinful life of the 
past was renounced, and Augustine was baptized 



162 MOTHERS OK GREAT MEN 

by Saint Ambrose. Varied influences brought about 
this changed life — the sermons of Ambrose, the 
biography of Saint Anthony, the Epistles of Paul; 
but no one can deny that, above all other means, 
the tears and prayers of the faithful mother were 
most effective. Through the long and weary years 
when Augustine seemed only to be plunging deeper 
and deeper into a life of shame and degradation, 
and when prayer itself seemed vain, Monica 
suffered not her faith to weaken, but continued in 
earnest supplication to God, and in solemn argu- 
ment with her son. Entering at length into the 
light of the Christian faith, he utters that immortal 
sentence, "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and 
our heart is restless till it rests in Thee." 

In the "Confessions of Augustine," written in 
humility and deepest penitence, he has reared to his 
mother a lasting memorial. Many beautiful 
tributes are paid to her Christian character, and 
reference made to her loftiness of mind, admirable 
characteristics, and "praiseworthy habits." In re- 
gard to his own wayward course, he says, she 
wept to God in his behalf "more than most mothers 
are wont to weep the bodily deaths of their chil- 
dren." Adding, "For she saw that I was dead by 
that faith and spirit which she had from Thee, and 
Thou heardst her, O Lord." 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 163 

While on her homeward journey, shortly after 
the conversion of Augustine, Monica fell ill with 
fever. Her life-work had now been accomplished, 
and having seen her beloved son accept the Chris- 
tian faith, she met death calmly and without the 
desire to live longer. At Ostia, near the mouth of 
the Tiber, Monica passed away, on the ninth day 
of her illness, having reached the age of fifty-six 
years. Augustine alludes to a conversation, held 
with her shortly before her death, in regard to the 
kingdom of heaven, and speaks of her words as be- 
ing most precious to him. He endeavored to mourn 
her without tears, deeming it not fitting in respect 
to weep for one who had died so happily, and in 
such confidence of eternal life ; but on the day fol- 
lowing that of her death, he arose in the early 
morning feeling most keenly his loss ; and "I let go 
my tears," he says, "which I had kept in before, 
that they might flow as much as they pleased, and 
found rest to my soul in weeping for her who so 
long had wept for me." 

Just as the yearnings of her heart were realized, 
the mother was claimed by death, caused, it is 
thought, by the overpowering effect of the great 
joy experienced on account of her son's conversion. 

By the grace of God, the erring Augustine be- 
came "an incalculable blessing to the whole Chris- 



v 



164 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

tian world, and brought even the sins and errors 
of his youth into the service of the truth." 
Throughout a long life he wrote and preached with 
marked influence and power. The character and 
works of Augustine are studied as among the most 
notable and profound of all ages; and he is recog- 
nized as one of the foundation stones of the 
Protestant Church. 

To the touching devotion and unceasing prayers 
of his mother, Monica, Augustine attributes the 
wonderful change which came into his life, by 
which he was brought from degradation and 
despair into ways of righteousness and peace. As 
the names of mother and son are closely united 
in the vicissitudes of life, so likewise in death are 
they linked together, in union immortal, indis- 
soluble. 



VI 

GLIMPSES OF THE MOTHERS 
OF MANY GREAT MEN 

FROM time immemorial, the maternal in- 
fluence has been a controlling force in the 
world's history. The holy-hearted Hannah 
may well be given first place in the list of model 
mothers ; and inscribed beneath her name the dedi- 
cation to God of her infant son, Samuel: 

"For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath 
given me my petition which I asked of him, there- 
fore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he 
liveth he shall be lent to the Lord."* 

Only once is the evil withdrawn from the life of 
Christ during the thirty years when he dwelt apart 
from the world under the guidance of His mother's 



*When Martin Luther for the first time discovered the Bible, 
in the dark alcove of the library at Erfurt, he turned it open at 
the story of Hannah and Samuel. He was enraptured with his 
find, and with that great story — a story of motherhood — for he 
had supposed, theretofore, the whole Bible to consist only of the 
Gospels and the Epistles, which he had heard read at Mass. "Oh, 
God," he murmured, "could I have one of these books, I would 
ask no other worldly treasure." In recounting this incident, 
D'Aubigne, in his History of the Reformation, naively remarks, 
"The Reformation lay hid in that Bible." 



166 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

eye. But can it be doubted that much of the 
strength and peace and inner calm which were so 
abundantly His, came to Him during those days 
spent in the lowly home in Nazareth? 

Though the silence of the centuries reveals little 
concerning the mother, who, content to dwell in the 
sanctity of the home, aloof from the world's 
tumult, has sent forth her sons, strong and ready 
for the duties of life, there may however be found 
occasional glimpses which serve to portray the 
immeasurable influence of motherhood. Some- 
times it is the son speaking; but most often it is 
the life of the son, which expresses more 
eloquently than by power of language the worth 
of a mother's devoted love, her watchful care, and 
unparalleled self-abnegation. 

Brief though these glimpses be into the charac- 
ters of women whose sons have acquired fame, 
they serve to give deeper insight into the lives of 
their sons — and to explain, as it were, why certain 
men have risen from the ranks of the common 
people to be numbered with the world's immortals. 

Anthusa, mother of Chrysostom, "the golden- 
mouthed," was a pious woman, wholly devoted to 
her son, who grew up under her loving instructions 
into an earnest, gentle, and serious youth. He 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 167 

passed through none of the wild, dark struggles 
which left an ineffaceable impress on the soul of 
Augustine, and which gave perhaps a too somber 
tone to his theology. Chrysostom was first of all 
a student; but with expanding powers of intellect 
he caught the attention of the civilized world by 
his wonderful power of oratory, and has left 
written works which are esteemed superior to 
everything of like kind in ancient Christian litera- 
ture. To the precepts of his mother, and to her 
training in early life, are traceable the gifts and 
traits which distinguished his life. 

Of Alexander the Great it is said : "Like almost 
all men remarkable for either good or evil, Alex- 
ander inherited from his mother his most notable 
qualities — his courage, his intellectual activity, and 
an ambition indifferent to any means that made for 
his own end. Fearless in her life, she fearlessly 
met death with a courage worthy of her rank and 
domineering character, when her hour of retribu- 
tion came ; and Alexander is incomprehensible till 
we recognize him as rising from the womb of 
Olympia." 

Jeanne LeFranc Calvin, mother of John Calvin, 
was noted for her great piety ; and also for her gift 



168 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

of discretion, which is at all times to be esteemed 
as a virtue of untold worth. In addition to the 
gifts — both mental and spiritual — which she 
possessed in marked degree, great personal beauty 
added to her charm and attractiveness. From her 
example, and from her teachings, John Calvin 
drew much of the inspiration and stability of char- 
acter which made his career so notable. 

Ann Cooke Bacon, mother of Sir Francis Bacon, 
was distinguished both as a linguist and as a the- 
ologian. She corresponded in Greek with Bishop 
Jewell; and so well versed was she in Latin that 
she translated his Apologia with such a degree of 
correctness that neither he nor Archbishop Parker 
could suggest a single alteration. 

In his adopted Fatherland, the memory of Wil- 
liam the Silent is still passionately cherished. The 
traits of character which so endeared him to the 
people of Holland, were transmitted from his 
mother, Juliana of Stollberg, from whom, history 
records, he inherited his noblest gifts. 

David Hume, historian, poet, philosopher, but 
withal a skeptic, stated that the only argument for 
Christianity which was to him unanswerable was 
the beautiful and holy life of his mother. 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 169 

Benjamin West in early childhood displayed 
much artistic talent. Easily discouraged, however, 
and subject to moods of depression, it was only by 
reason of the constant encouragement and stimu- 
lating counsel of his mother that he faced bravely, 
and overcame, the difficulties which beset his way. 
In later years, when his reputation as an artist was 
established, he frequently said, "My mother's kiss 
made me a painter!" 

Said Richard Cecil : "I tried to be a skeptic 
when a young man, but my mother's life was too 
much for me." 

Katharina Elizabeth Textor Goethe, the mother 
of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, was of a singularly 
bright and happy disposition. Married at the age 
of seventeen to a man twenty-one years her senior, 
she was in fact more nearly of an age with her 
children than her husband; and through her com- 
panionship with them kept their childhood sunny 
and sweet in a home which would perhaps have 
otherwise been too severely disciplined by the stern 
father. The adoration of Goethe's mother for her 
talented son savored almost of idolatry; and he in 
turn was devotedly attached to her. "She furnished 
him with the traits of character of Elizabeth in 



170 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Goetz Berlichinzen, the amiable housewife in Her- 
mann und Dorothea, and other attractive charac- 
ters; her letters well justify the respect and affec- 
tion with which Goethe always regarded her, and 
account for many of the best qualities in her son's 
intellectual endowment. 

The letters of Frau Goethe to her son, and to 
others of her relatives and friends, possess decided 
literary merit. Sparkling at times with irrepressible 
good-humor — again, tenderly sympathetic in tone, 
or reverently solemn as she discusses serious ques- 
tions, they portray throughout, her keenness of in- 
tellect and optimistic spirit. To an intimate friend, 
Frau von Stern, she gave a most excellent char- 
acterization of herself : "I love my fellow-beings 
dearly, and that I know is appreciated by young 
and old alike; I live in the most unpretentious way, 
which also pleases all the sons and daughters of 
Eve. Nor do I set myself up as anyone's moral 
critic, but rather seek to discover the good side of 
people, leaving the bad to Him who created us, and 
who best knows how to smooth off the rough cor- 
ners ; and I find that this mode of life keeps me hale, 
and happy, and contented." In a letter to Dr. Zim- 
merman, who had been the physician of her 
daughter, she wrote in her cheery manner in refer- 
ence to his own ailment, hypochrondria, which was 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 171 

so repugnant to her that she averred that she could 
not bring herself to write the word: 

"Feb. 16th, 1776. My Dear Doctor: — Your kind letter 
gave me much pleasure in part. But — what I wrote you 
in jest seems to be not entirely without foundation. You 
are not well. Believe me, I am seriously alarmed about 
you. Good heavens ! How comes such an excellent, 
clever, delightful, splendid, dear, good man by this con- 
founded illness ? I know a lot of rascals who ought to be 
sick, for they are not of the slightest use to the world 
whether they are asleep or awake. Dear Friend ! will you 
take the advice of a woman, who it is true does not know 
the first thing about the science of medicine, but who has 
had the opportunity of close association with many people 
who were similarly affected? I have always found that a 
change of surroundings was the most effective cure. It is 
not necessary to travel two hundred miles; but you must 
get out of your four walls, into the open air, out into the 
country, among people you like. Then hurl all his black 
and gloomy thoughts right back at the devil !" 

Many years after the death of Frau Goethe, 
Zeller having asked to see one of her letters, Goethe 
sent him one, and accompanied it with these words : 
"Herewith I enclose one of my mother's letters, in 
accordance with your wish. In it, in every line 
she wrote, there is expressed the character of a 
woman who had a strong and hearty life in the 
Old Testament fear of the Lord, and full of trust 



172 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

in the unchangeable God of the family, and of the 
nation." 

L,etizia Romolino Bonaparte, mother of Napoleon 
Bonaparte, was high-spirited and energetic, possess- 
ing great strength of character; and was likewise 
endowed with unusual personal beauty. She fol- 
lowed the changing fortune of her soldier-husband 
as his camp was moved from place to place; and 
it is not surprising that her son, nurtured amid such 
environment, should choose a soldier's life. As a 
child, Napoleon was of an imperious temperament, 
and it was with difficulty that his mother finally 
gained the ascendancy over him. In the heyday of 
his glory, he said: "It is to my mother and her 
good principles that I owe my fortune and all the 
good that I have ever done." When his brilliant 
career suddenly terminated, and he was consigned 
to prison on lonely St. Helena, she begged to be 
allowed to share his confinement with him; but to 
this he would not consent. 

Maria Madelena Beethoven, mother of L,udwig 
von Beethoven, was a woman of much depth of 
feeling and refinement. Condemned to a life of 
great unhappiness by a worthless and dissolute 
husband, she devoted herself to the education of 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 173 

her son Ludwig, in whom centered all her hopes and 
aspirations. She was especially ambitious for his 
musical advancement, and continually held up be- 
fore him his grandfather, from whom the boy in- 
herited his remarkable talent. Of his mother, Bee- 
thoven wrote: "She has been to me a good and 
loving mother, and my best friend." 

Lord Macaulay paid tribute to his mother in the 
following words addressed to the young: 




Young people, look in those eyes, listen to that dear 
voice, and notice the feeling of even a touch that is be- 
stowed upon you by that gentle hand. Make much of it 
while yet you have that most precious of all gifts, a loving 
mother. «Read the unfathomable love of those eyes; the 
kind anxiety of that tone and look, however slight your 
pain. In after life you may have friends ; but never will 
you have again the inexpressible love and gentleness 
lavished upon you which none but a mother bestows. 
Often do I sigh in my struggles with the hard uncaring 
world, for the deep, sweet scrutiny I felt when of an even- 
ing, resting in her bosom, I listened to some quiet tale, 
suitable to my age, read in her tender, untiring voice. 
Never can I forget her sweet glances cast upon me when 
I appeared asleep; never her kiss of peace at night. Years 
have passed since we laid her beside my father in the cold 
churchyard, yet still her voice whispers from the grave, 
and her eye watches over me as I visit spots long since 
loved by her memory." 



174 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Of the lonely poet, William Cowper, it is said: 
"His mother was a Donne, of the race of the poet, 
and descended by several lines from Henry III. 
When Cowper was six years old, his mother died; 
and seldom has a child lost more, even in a mother. 
Fifty years after her death he still thinks of her, 
he says, with love and tenderness every day. Late 
in his life, his cousin, Mrs. Anne Bodham, recalled 
herself to his remembrance by sending him his 
mother's picture. 'Every creature,' he writes, 
'that has any affinity to my mother is dear to me, 
and you, the daughter of her brother, are but one 
remove distant from her; I love you therefore, and 
I love you much, both for her sake and for your 
own. The world could not have furnished you 
with a present so acceptable to me as the picture 
which you have so kindly sent me. I received it 
the night before last, and received it with a trepi- 
dation of nerves and spirits somewhat akin to what 
I should have felt had its dear original presented 
herself to my embraces. I kissed it, and hung it 
where it is the last object which I see at night, and 
the first on which I open my eyes in the morning. 
She died when I completed my sixth year; yet I 
remember her well, and am ocular witness of the 
great fidelity of the copy. I remember, too, a 
multitude of the maternal tendernesses which I 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 175 

received from her, and which have endeared her 
memory beyond expression. There is in me, I be- 
lieve, more of the Donne than Cowper, and though 
I love all of both names, and have a thousand 
reasons to love those of my own name, yet I feel 
the bond of nature draw me vehemently to your 
side.' As Cowper never married, there was noth- 
ing to take the place in his heart which had been 
left vacant by his mother." 

"My mother ! when I learned that thou wast dead, 
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed? 
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son, 
Wretch even then, life's journey just begun? 
Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unfelt, a kiss ; 
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss — 
Ah, that maternal smile ! it answers — Yes. 
I heard the bell toll'd on thy burial day, 
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away, 
And, turning from my nursery window, drew 
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu ! 
But was it such? It was. Where thou art gone, 
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown. 
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore, 
The parting word shall pass my lips no more ! 
Thy maidens grieved themselves, at my concern, 
Oft gave me promise of thy quick return. 
What ardently I wished I long believed, 
And disappointed still, was still deceived; 
By expectation every day beguiled, 
Dupe of tomorrow, even from a child. 



176 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

Thus many a sad tomorrow came and went, 
Till, all my stock of infant sorrows spent, 
I learned at last submission to my lot, 
But though I less deplored thee, ne'er forgot." 

Although a man may not be a Christian himself, 
yet it is universally true that he desires that his 
children be brought up in a Christian atmosphere. 
When the hero of Ticonderoga (Ethan Allen) lay 
dying, he was asked by his child whether he should 
follow his own leanings toward atheism, or the 
religious principles of his mother. The answer 
came prompt and decisive, "Follow the principles 
of your mother." This unwillingness to trust the 
eternal destiny of his children to the uncertain 
vagaries of his own belief is a striking proof of the 
real power and truth of the religion of Jesus Christ. 

Of the Presidents of the United States, besides 
General Washington, there have been several who 
have accorded their highest success in life to a 
mother's training and influence. 

To Abigail Adams belongs the unique distinc- 
tion of being the wife of one President, and the 
grandmother of another — a distinction unique in all 
the history of the American nation. Her letters, 
edited by her grandson, are marvels of wisdom and 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 177 

virtue, and full of inspiration and direction toward 
noble aims. 

Thirty-five years after the death of Andrew 
Jackson's mother, he repeated at a dinner given in 
his honor, the following words of his mother: 
"Andrew, if I should not see you again, I wish you 
to remember and treasure up some things I have 
already said to you. In this world you will have to 
make your own way. To do that you must have 
friends. You can make friends by being honest, 
and you can keep them by being steadfast. You 
must keep in mind that friends worth having will 
in the long run expect as much from you as they 
give to you. To forget an obligation, or to be un- 
grateful for a kindness, is a base crime — not merely 
a fault or a sin, but an actual crime. Men guilty 
of it, sooner or later must suffer the penalty. 

"In personal conduct be always polite, but never 
obsequious. No one will respect you more 
than you esteem yourself. Avoid quarrels as 
long as you can without yielding to imposition, but 
sustain your manhood always. Never bring a suit 
at law for assault or battery, or for defamation. 
The law affords no remedy for such outrages that 
can satisfy the feelings of a true man. 






178 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

"Never wound the feelings of others. Never 
brook wanton outrage upon your own feelings. If 
ever you have to vindicate your feelings or defend 
your honor, do it calmly. If angry at first, wait 
till your wrath cools before you proceed." 

A visitor to the White House once commended 
James K. Polk for his respect for the Sabbath day, 
adding that it was highly gratifying to the religious 
sentiment of the country. President Polk replied, 
"I was taught by a pious mother to fear God, and 
keep his commandments, and I trust that no cares 
of a government of my own will ever tempt me to 
forget what I owe to the government of God." 

Abraham Lincoln, whose mother died when he 
was a mere lad, always attributed to her his best 
traits of character, and the development of the 
highest good in his stern nature. 

The mother of James A. Garfield was left a 
widow with four little children, in what is known 
as the "Wilderness," in the State of Ohio. Frontier 
life was one of poverty, and the Garfield home only 
a log cabin ; but the heroic young mother faced the 
struggle, and reared her family in the midst of 
great privation. She lived to see the youngest of 
her children — James, who was left fatherless at 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 179 

two years of age, at three years was introduced to 
his books, and when ten years of age was assisting 
in the manual labor of the farm — raised to the 
highest position within the gift of his country. In 
young manhood, while attending Williams College, 
where he later graduated with high honor, James 
Garfield daily read a chapter in the Bible — his 
mother by previous arrangement reading the same 
chapter at the same hour — thus keeping aflame her 
teaching and the memory of her love. 

a* 

Alexander Dumas sprang into fame in the early 
part of the nineteenth century as a writer of plays 
which the leading French critic of the day termed 
"A great historical achievement." On the night 
when his first great drama was receiving the 
plaudits of an enthusiastic audience, Dumas was 
kneeling by the bedside of his dying mother, only 
withdrawing occasionally to hear how the play was 
being received. His deep devotion to her was 
stronger than a desire for the world's acclaim and 
commendation. 

The mother of John Louis Rudolph Agassiz, 
having lost four children prior to his birth, watched 
over her little son with much solicitude. She 



180 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

seemed to understand him thoroughly, and to know 
that his love of nature and of all living things was 
an intellectual tendency, and not simply a child's 
inclination to make friends and playmates of the 
things about him. In later life, it was the sympathy 
of the mother which gave to the lad the key to his 
chosen profession. Throughout his life she re- 
mained his most intimate friend and companion. 
Her counsel to him was, "To do all the good you can 
to your fellow-beings, to have a pure conscience, to 
gain an honorable livelihood, to procure for yourself 
'by work a little ease, to make those around you 
happy — that is true happiness ; all the rest but mere 
accessories and chimeras. 

In the mother of Alfred Tennyson, one finds a 
gentle and most imaginative woman. This last 
named quality descended in fullest measure upon 
her gifted son, who inherited also her sunny dis- 
position and serenity of temperament, 

Leah Salomon-Bartholdy Mendelssohn, mother of 
Felix Mendelssohn, was a woman of a diversity of 
talents, to whom her sons and daughters owed 
much of their love for the artistic and beautiful, 
Felix Mendelssohn has been accounted "fortunate" 
in possessing a mother of such exceptional ability, 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 181 

and of marked depth of feeling. From her he 
received his first music lessons, which lasted only 
five minutes. Gradually the time was prolonged; 
and as he practiced, she sat near the piano, busy 
with her knitting. 

In addition to his musical education, Mrs. 
Mendelssohn was careful to see that her son 
obtained a good general education, knowing that 
his happiness would be greatly increased by an 
interest in diverse things, thus preventing the pos- 
sibility of ennui and mental stagnation. 

Chorley, the well-known musical critic of that 
period, says of her: "There have lived few women 
more honorably distinguished than she was by 
acquirement, by that perfect propriety which Horace 
Walpole has justly called the grace of declining 
life; by a cordial hospitality, the sincerity of which 
there was no mistaking; by an easy humor in con- 
versation, and a knowledge of men and books. She 
possessed a fund of intelligence, a habit of mind 
bred amongst constant intercourse with the best 
things of all countries, which belonged to herself 
and remained with her to the last." 

The mother of Robert Moffatt possessed more 
than the usual piety of a Scotch woman of the time 
in which she lived. In spite of very limited oppor- 



182 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

tunities, she was exceedingly intelligent, and kept 
herself well-informed regarding the great move- 
ments of the world; especially did she take a lively 
interest in spiritual affairs, and missionary inter- 
prises, which were at that date only in their in- 
fancy. Seated about the open fire on long winter 
evenings, Robert Moffatt, knitting with his brothers 
and sisters, first heard from his mother's lips that 
there were heathen in the world, and of efforts be- 
ing made to send them the Gospel. The impression 
made upon him in childhood, of the need of foreign 
missionaries, influenced the life of Robert Moffatt 
to such an extent that he became the pioneer of 
modern missionary work in South Africa, giving 
fifty-four years of intense service to the work. It 
was by his influence that David Livingstone (after- 
ward his son-in-law) was led to give his life to 
Africa. 

Thomas Henry Huxley, referring to his mother, 
says : "Physically and mentally I am the son of my 
mother so completely — even down to peculiar move- 
ments of the hands, which made their appearance 
in me as I reached the age she had when I noticed 
them — that I can hardly find a trace of my father 
in myself except an inborn faculty for drawing, 
which unfortunately in my case has never been cul- 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 183 

tivated, a hot temper, and that amount of tenacity 
of purpose which unfriendly observers sometimes 
call obstinacy." 

Emerson, whose mastery of the English language 
has been acknowledged to be unsurpassed, states 
that his style was derived in large measure from the 
constant reading and study of the Bible which was 
required of him by his mother. Of her, Dr. Froth- 
ingham writes: "Ruth Haskins, the wife of Wil- 
liam, and mother of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was a 
woman of great patience and fortitude, of the 
serenest trust in God, of a discerning spirit, and a 
most courteous bearing; one who knew how to 
guide the affairs of her own house, as long as she 
was responsible for that, with the sweetest author- 
ity, and knew how to give the least trouble and the 
greatest happiness after that authority was resigned. 
Both her mind and her character were of a superior 
order, and they set their stamp upon manners of 
peculiar softness and natural grace, and quiet dig- 
nity. Her sensible and kindly speech was always as 
good as the best instruction; her smile, though it 
was ever ready, was a reward." 

Lord Wolseley touched the keynote of many a 
soldier's life when he said: "Poets imagine that 



i&4 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

men say to themselves the night after a battle, 
'What will they say in England?' I believe that 
by far the largest portion of men think of their 
mother, and of her valued love for them. At least 
it has been so all my life." 

James Whistler has put upon canvas the likeness 
of his mother ; and the serenity and calmness, so well 
portrayed, present a faithful presentation of peace- 
ful declining days. 

In "Margaret Ogilvy," J. M. Barrie gives a pen- 
portrait of his mother, who, like the typical Scotch 
housewife, finds her highest happiness in the busy, 
sheltered home-life. Her keen interest and pardon- 
able pride in her son's literary talent cannot be sup- 
pressed, in spite of the diligent effort on her part 
to assume indifference. 

Admiral Farragut, in his Journal, tells of the 
wonderful bravery of his mother in the early days 
of the settlers in America. On one occasion, when 
she was left at home with only her little children, a 
party of Indians came to the house, which was 
located in an isolated section of country, and sought 
admission. With a heroism born of necessity, Mrs. 
Farragut barred the door in the most effectual man- 
ner she could devise, and sent all the trembling little 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 185 

ones up into the loft, while she remained to guard 
the entrance with an ax. The savages attempted to 
parley with her, but she kept them at bay until they 
finally decided to depart, leaving her and her family 
unmolested. This act of heroism on the part of a 
woman, and that woman his own mother, ever after- 
ward stamped itself upon the life and character of 
her son, who in later years was to take an impor- 
tant part in the naval affairs of the country. 

Seldom has the devotion of a son been more 
admirably portrayed than by Robert E. Lee for the 
invalid mother to whom he states that he owed 
everything. Left fatherless at the age of eleven, 
Robert, in the absence of older brothers and sis- 
ters, relieved his mother of many of the duties of 
the home, and also of outside cares, as far as it was 
within his power to do so. As housekeeper, he 
carried the keys and did the marketing, attended to 
the horses, and accompanied his mother for a drive 
each day. When leaving home to take up his 
studies at West Point, his mother declared that she 
could not live without him ; and it was only a short 
time after his graduation that he was summoned to 
her deathbed. 

Among the many virtues which this excellent 
mother instilled into her son were self-denial and 



186 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

self-control, both of which he possessed to a marked 
degree. 

Dwight L. Moody, America's greatest evangelist, 
ascribed to his mother the shaping of his life for 
effective service in the gospel ministry. His deep 
love for her, his admiration for her spirit of hero- 
ism, and appreciation of her struggle to rear nine 
children in spite of abject poverty, caused him to 
love her with a devotion little short of idolatry. 

Once, while holding services in Cambridge, Eng- 
land, where the students seemed utterly irrespon- 
sive, Moody bethought himself of his own mother, 
and of a mother's wonderful influence. He called 
a prayer-meeting for mothers one afternoon, in 
Alexander Hall, to pray for university men as 
"some mother's son." Three hundred mothers at- 
tended, and Moody often afterwards referred to 
this meeting as unique in his long service. Mother 
after mother, amid her tears, raised fervent pray- 
ers to heaven. That night the tide turned, and 
during the remainder of the meeting scores of 
young men were brought into the kingdom of God. 

At his mother's funeral, standing by her coffin, 
and holding in his hands the old family Bible and 
well-worn book of devotions, Moody, in his char- 
acteristically simple but beautifully impressive way, 



MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 187 

paid eloquent tribute to the worth of a good 
mother, giving as example the life of his own 
mother, whose children's highest privilege he 
deemed was now to arise and call her blessed. 

The biographer of Ethelbert Nevin says : "Cer- 
tainly rarely between mother and son have the 
parental ties persisted so intensely. More truly 
than of most sons may it be said that his life was 
a prolongation — an admiration of hers. He 
thought of her always ; he lived in her ; they were 
never disassociated; and only by a little while did 
he survive her death." 

Never was there a stronger bond of affection be- 
tween mother and son than between Thomas Alva 
Edison and his mother. Speaking of her once 
after her death, he said: "I did not have my 
mother very long, but in that length of time she 
cast over me an influence which has lasted all my 
life. The good effects of her early training I can 
never lose. If it had not been for her apprecia- 
tion and her faith in me at a critical time in my 
experience, I should very likely never have become 
an inventor. ) You see my mother was a Canadian 
girl, who used to teach in Nova Scotia. She be- 
lieved that many of the boys who turned out badly 



188 MOTHERS OF GREAT MEN 

by the time they grew to manhood, would have been 
valuable citizens if they had been handled in the 
right way when they were young. Her years of 
experience as a school teacher taught her many 
things about human nature, and especially about 
boys. After she married my father, and became a 
mother, she applied that same theory to me. I was 
always a careless boy, and with a mother of differ- 
ent mental caliber I should have probably turned 
out badly. But her firmness, her sweetness, her 
goodness, were potent powers to keep me in the 
right path."